Credit: Toby Melville
Credit: Marvin Joseph
"form a wall of meat"
USAF B-2 Spirit
Germany and France will
not reward the UK for
the EU and abandoning the
dream of European
By the end of the week,
Donald Trump will
He will have his moment,
for sure. But when things
wrong he will be chased
2017 January 20
Brexit — Blame Blair
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that
the decision by Tony Blair to keep UK borders open in 2004 fuelled
the anti-immigration feeling that led to the Brexit vote:
"There was a strong strand of feeling
against uncontrolled migration and I lay the responsibility for that
squarely at the door of prime minister Blair who failed to impose
transitional regime in the UK 2004. That created a public perception
which we still haven't shaken off to this day."
EU governments, the Blair government waived the UK right to impose
transitional controls on the free movement of citizens when eight
eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004.
AR Hmm — a new idea but a good one.
Populism — Fool's Paradise
Philip Hammond called populism a
fool's paradise in a speech at Davos:
"Politicians who take the populist route will find it a very
short road. There is no sustainable future for a developed economy
in protectionism, subsidy, and high debt ... Populism is a fool's
paradise. I hope I have already demonstrated that I welcome
suggestions from business and will act on them where I can."
AR I say Hammond for PM if May falters.
Energy — New Look
Former Texas governor Rick Perry once famously forgot
that the Energy Department was on the list of US government agencies
he'd like to shut down. Now he asks senators to approve his leading
"My past statements made over five years ago about
abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current
thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital
functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its
AR I bet he hadn't
realized its main job is making nuclear bombs!
Being — Alone Or Not Alone
Science fiction is doomed to profundity,
unable to avoid philosophical dilemmas. Existentialism is always
likely to appear when the theme is either our aloneness in the
universe or the encounter with the other. Being alone or not alone —
that is a question.
Passengers shows engineer Jim Preston woken from suspended
animation nearly a century ahead of schedule on interstellar cruise
liner Avalon heading for a colony planet. As the only wakeful person
in a world of sleepers, he finds he is a living a nightmare.
Jim comes across a working bar aboard the Avalon, whose android
bartender is programmed to engage in convincing banter and
philosophizing. Jim then gazes at the hibernating journalist Aurora
Lane, a Sleeping Beauty played by Jennifer Lawrence. And so on.
Arrival is different: the alien visitors may be bringing a
message but at first what they offer is a written language. The
language is delicate, sharing with Chinese the ability to hold
elements in poetic tension as well as an affinity with Japanese
AR See my review
of the same movies (blog 2016-12-27).
2017 January 19
French Presidential Election
is in two rounds, the first on April 23, the second on May 7. The
campaign has not yet started and the final slate of candidates is
France 24 — Frontrunner François
Fillon vowed to take back control of immigration, in part by
imposing quotas on non-EU nationals: "France is generous, but it is
not a mosaic and a territory without limits. It is one nation that
has a right to choose who can join it and a right that foreigners
accept its rules and customs."
Marine Le Pen
Paris Match — FN candidate Marine Le Pen has
launched her campaign: "I had ants in my paws! ... François Fillon
shows great firmness, but he is entangled in a brutal program that
he does not assume ... Since his victory in November, the deputy of
Paris has been as tetanized, lying on the ball." (Google
Le Pen was seen last week in Trump Tower. She
was in New York on a private trip.
Robert Zaretsky — Emmanuel Macron, 39, has been a philosophy
student, an investment banker, and a French government economic
minister. As an independent candidate for the presidency, he
may be the best bet for a European future based on a common market
and a common morality, a single currency and a singular commitment
to the EU core values.
Macron is convinced that the French
and the Germans can still be rallied to the European project. He
praises Merkel on her refugee policy and warns that the euro will be
saved only if the European Union acts like a truly sovereign body.
Chassany — Emmanuel Macron is the third man in the race, behind Marine Le Pen and François Fillon in polls. Macron,
an École nationale d'administration (ENA) graduate and a former
Rothschild banker, became popular after taking on the left and
deregulating the economy. Now he has created his own party,
2017 January 18
The problems troubling the world are not caused
Countries should view their own interest in
the broader context and refrain from pursuing their own interests at
the expense of others. We should not retreat into the harbor
whenever we encounter a storm or we will never reach the opposite
China will keep its doors wide open. We hope that
other countries will also keep their doors open to Chinese investors
and maintain a level playing field for us.
Our careful attention to building and
sustaining the international world order, with the US and Europe at
its core, was the bedrock of the success that the world enjoyed in
the second half of the 20th century.
Globalization has not
been an unalloyed good. I am a free trader and a supporter of
globalization, but it has deepened the rift between those racing
ahead at the top and those struggling to hang on in the middle, or
falling to the bottom.
Popular movements on both the left and
the right have demonstrated a dangerous willingness to revert to
political small-mindedness — to the same nationalist, protectionist,
and isolationist agendas that led the world to consume itself in war
during the last century.
The impulse to hunker down, shut the
gates, build walls, and exit at this moment is precisely the wrong
Meritocracy is a system in which the most
talented and capable, the best educated, those who score highest on
the tests, are put in leading positions. From the start it was clear
that a meritocratic society would be a disaster. It would create a
society of selfish and arrogant winners versus angry and desperate
What makes meritocrats so unbearable to their critics
is not so much their success but their insistence that they have
succeeded because they worked harder than others, because they
happened to be more qualified than others, and because they passed
the tests that others failed.
In Europe today, the Brussels
elites are blamed for their cosmopolitanism, their resistance to
public pressure, and their mobility. The European meritocratic elite
is like a team of star footballers. When their teams start to lose,
their fans abandon them.
People trust leaders who show not
only competence but also courage and commitment. They want their
leaders to hang on in times of crisis rather than being helicoptered
out. People fear that in times of trouble the
meritocrats will opt to leave instead of sharing the cost of
The new European populists promise solidarity over
justice. They promise to nationalize the elites, not to save the
people but to stay with them, to rebuild the walls removed by
globalization. Many Europeans find this promise appealing.
John Rawls argued that being a loser in a meritocratic society was
not as painful as being a loser in an openly unjust society. He said
the fairness of the game would reconcile people with failure. He may
have been wrong.
Heidegger's appeal to the Volk community in his defense of National
Socialism against a cosmopolitan Jewish elite.
2017 January 17
UK prime minister Theresa May: "We seek a new and equal partnership
between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our
friends and allies in the EU. Not partial membership of the European
Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that
leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already
enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of
membership as we leave. The United Kingdom is leaving the European
A Global Britain
I want to outline our objectives for the negotiation ahead:
1 We will provide certainty wherever we can.
put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a
vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.
2 We will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the
jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.
We will ensure that as we leave the European Union no new barriers
to living and doing business within our own Union are created.
4 The United Kingdom will share a land border with the EU, and
maintaining that common travel area with the Republic of Ireland
will be an important priority for the UK.
5 We will ensure we
can control immigration to Britain from Europe. You cannot control
immigration overall when there is free movement to Britain from
6 We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who
are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals
in other member states, as early as we can.
7 We will ensure
that workers rights are fully protected and maintained. We will make
sure legal protection for workers keeps pace with the changing
8 We will pursue a bold and ambitious free
trade agreement with the European Union. We do not seek membership
of the single market. We seek the greatest possible access to it
through a new free trade agreement.
9 We will negotiate our
own trade agreements. I want us to have a customs agreement with the
EU and I want Britain to be free to establish our own tariff
schedules at the WTO.
10 We will welcome
agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on
major science, research, and technology initiatives.
will continue to cooperate with our European partners in important
areas such as crime, terrorism, and foreign affairs.
believe a phased process of implementation will give businesses
enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.
This is the framework of a deal.
Theresa May says from the deck of a Royal Navy ship
in the Persian Gulf: "I want a red, white and blue Brexit."
She plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
Sterling has depreciated significantly since last June and the
government is expecting a budget deficit of £122 billion over the
next five years. Yet in Westminster a state of strange calm prevails
behind a united front of unshakeable optimism.
steeling herself for a hard Brexit. This steely resolve is damaging
her in the rest of Europe. A clean break is unlikely,
and the UK will need the goodwill of other EU states to exit in
Brexit minister David Davis has no plan and an
easygoing approach. A Brexit committee meets behind closed doors and
has an equal number of Brexit supporters and opponents. A committee
member: "Everyone chips in, the PM sums up and everyone staggers out
saying how difficult it is."
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan
is a pioneer of the Brexit movement. He seems to think Brexit is as
good for Britain as victory in World War II. He says the EU can
either give Britain limited access to the internal market or get a
cold, hard Brexit.
If you have two strong arguments, the
surest way to lose a debate is to add a third one. The third
argument of our time is a warning of economic doom.
Brexit is terrible because it deprives young Britons of the
right to choose where to live, study and work, and it deprives them
of a European identity.
Remainers let their campaign be
hijacked by a third argument about the loss of the single European
passport for banks. It cost them the referendum.
The curse of
our time is fake maths, used to peddle a political prejudice.
Economic models have better uses. Nobody can see the future.
There seems to be a prevailing impression
among some people that the European Union will soon fall apart, that
after the UK others will go too. That is a false picture of the EU
and of what it offers.
Trump On Europe
Donald Trump supports Brexit: "People,
countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity
but, I do believe this, if they hadn't been forced to take in all of
the refugees ..."
German chancellor Angela Merkel came in for
special mention for her refugee policy: "I think it was a big
mistake for Germany."
US secretary of state John Kerry: "I
thought frankly it was inappropriate for a president elect of the
United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in
a quite direct manner."
BMW plans to open a facility in
Mexico in 2019. Trump: "I would tell BMW if they think they're gonna
build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35% tax,
it's not gonna happen ..."
German deputy chancellor Sigmar
Gabriel: "The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the
supply parts that aren't being built in the US were to suddenly come
with a 35% tariff."
Trump said the car trade was unfair
because on Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes-Benz. Gabriel:
"Build better cars."
Progress iff global supply chains iff free trade iff no tariff wars.
Photo: Daniel Biskup
PEOTUS USSOS pick
Rex Tillerson calls the Russian
annexation of Crimea illegal,
says the United States should
have provided more aid to
Ukraine, supports NATO, and
Putin knew of any
cyberattacks against the
Jared and Ivanka
Chinese work on Mischief
Chinese DF-21D carrier
The happy couple:
to keeping the magic alive is finding ways to promote
If policy is going to be made
characters on Twitter,
and every reasonable measure
accountability is being bypassed, and people
don't care about it,
we have a problem.
Star Ate Planet
Tabby's star KIC 8462852
series of big dips
in brightness after dimming
by 14% in 100
years. Now a
Columbia team explain all.
They say the star
a planet in the past, so it
brightened and dimmed
Every time the debris passes
between us and the star,
the image blinks.
AR Blog 2016-01-17
Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit
fellow at All Souls. Until
his death on 1 January, he was widely
regarded as the most
important living moral
partly for his work
on personal identity: We are psychological
memories, inclinations, and
intentions. In the
will go by my name, share many
of my memories,
and act on
some of my intentions. The
AR I met him at seminars.
2017 January 16
When we talked last Friday, Donald Trump had nothing but kind
words and generous sentiments for a nation he believes will be his
On the UK:
"I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing ... I'm a big
fan of the UK, we're gonna work very hard to get [a new trade deal]
done quickly and done properly."
On the EU: "People,
countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own
identity ... if they hadn't been forced to take in all of the
refugees ... I think that you wouldn't have a Brexit."
"You look at the European Union and it's Germany. Basically a
vehicle for Germany. That's why I thought the UK was so smart in
On NATO: "I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number
one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.
Number two the countries aren't paying what they're supposed to pay
... With that being said, NATO is very important to me."
Russia: "Let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For
one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced
very substantially, that's part of it. But Russia's hurting very
badly right now because of sanctions."
Trump has no intention
of abandoning Twitter because he believes it gives him a direct
connection to the American people.
Trump: "Ich mag Stärke. Ich mag Ordnung."
Erstmals erklärt ein angehender US-Präsident offen
und ohne Rücksicht, was er über Deutschland und Europa denkt.
2017 January 15
Adam and Eve
Jared Kushner and Ivanka
Trump are getting ready for the new US administration. They have
stepped down from their respective businesses in preparation for
their roles in Washington. The two are set to become the most
powerful couple in Washington.
In August, Ivanka got her
father to unveil policy proposals to lower child care costs. In
December she called members of Congress about child care legislation
and tax deductions. Her expected work on climate change was also
widely noted in the press.
Jared Kushner may have won the
presidency for Donald Trump. He is expected to be the presidential
policy person on the Mideast. Trump even says he believes Kushner
could broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Ivanka and Jared are perfectly positioned to become the powers
behind the throne. Melania and Donald Trump are adamant on spending
as little time in Washington as possible, so Ivanka and Jared will
effectively be the de facto first couple. They almost make you
forget that the Donald is about to become president.
AR First couple — would you "Adam and
Eve" [believe] it.
Catarina Dutilh Novaes + AR
In Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781), Immanuel Kant stated
that no progress in logic had been made since Aristotle. Today we
see three golden periods for logic: the ancient Greek period, the
medieval scholastic period, and the mathematical period of the last
two hundred years. Kant had disregarded the scholastic tradition.
In the classical Greek period, Plato wrote dialogues and
Aristotle discussed techniques useful in debating. The prominence of
dialectics continued through late antiquity. By the Latin medieval
period, this led to the emergence of scholastic disputation, which
continued to Summa Theologica (1265-1274) by Thomas
After Kant, logic turned toward mathematics. In
1847, George Boole inaugurated a new approach. He launched
algebraic logic and pushed the idea of using mathematical symbolism
Gottlob Frege was inspired by Kant and by Gottfried
Leibniz. He aimed to provide mathematics with logical foundations.
He used the mathematical notion of a function to represent predicate
logic and devised a new logical notation in his book
Frege saw that not only the
axioms but also the rules of inference required a rigorous
reformulation. His work established the idea that ordinary language
is expressively inadequate to account for mathematical or logical
reasoning. Parallel projects for axiomatizing parts of mathematics
were led by other distinguished mathematicians.
Unfortunately, Bertrand Russell discovered a paradox lurking in the
foundations of Frege's system. The goal of recovering and further
developing his program led Russell and his collaborator Alfred North
Whitehead to develop the system presented in their Principia
Mathematica (1910–13). Much of the work in logic in the last
century grew from their work.
Logic has become a
foundational branch of mathematics. The change reflects the fall
from grace of scholastic disputation. Only traces of the dialectical
origins of logic persist in recent developments in mathematics.
AR My trilogy Dialectical Logic
(1975, 1977, 1979) modeled mathematics in a dialectic defined in set
theory — each layer of the cumulative hierarchy was a metatheory for
the previous layers conceived as steps in an epistemo-ontic dynamic
inspired by the Hegelian dialectic. Essentially, Hegel wrapped up
all of scholastic logic in a discursive form that defied further
progress, forcing Frege to make a new start in mathematics. I found
the thread of continuity and rescued the dynamic that prevents logic
from freezing in an illusory absolutism (in fact Gödel had already
done so — I built on his work). See my 2014 essay
2017 January 14
Humanists, Moordown Community Centre, Bournemouth
AR Cambridge philosopher Ahmed presented
an individualist political philosophy (based on the views of John
Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich Hayek) that would abandon
much of the power of the state as we now understand it. I raised
objections from the floor, citing the 2008 financial crisis, the
rise of Donald Trump, and the critique of rationality due to Daniel
English-speaking countries are easier to hack
because their enemies understand what they are saying. Being an
English-speaking society makes you transparent, whereas foreign
countries are opaque to mostly monolingual Britons and Americans.
Chinese and Russian elites sent their children to study in the
US and UK. From 1990 to about 2010, Anglo-American media and films
gained huge global influence. And most AAs stopped bothering to
learn foreign languages.
The new weapon is cyber warfare. But
hacking foreign files is worthwhile only if you can use the
information. Russia and China can read English documents and
foreigners can make up fake news in English.
Britain has its
own problems with English. Westminster and the tabloid newspapers
are almost entirely monolingual. Brits therefore voted for Brexit
blithely unaware of how other European countries would respond.
The UK Foreign Office has been sidelined ahead of the Brexit
negotiations. The boss of the new department for exiting the EU,
David Davis, says the Germans will give the UK a good deal because
they sell cars in Britain. His European counterparts understand Britain rather
AR Stellen Sie sich vor,
Sie überhören ein Gespräch:
Merkel: Halten Sie durch — Ordnung muß sein!
Auto-Hersteller: Jawohl, Frau Bundeskanzlerin!
2017 January 13
China to US: Keep Out
Nominee for US secretary of state Rex
Tillerson uttered astonishing statements during his confirmation
hearing with the Senate. He had better bone up on
nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to
withdraw from its own territories.
South China Sea countries
will accelerate their negotiations on a Code of Conduct. They have
the ability to solve divergences by themselves without US
US to China: Threat
PEOTUS pick for US SOS Rex Tillerson compares Chinese
fortification of its manmade islands in the South China Sea to
Russian annexation of Crimea and threatens a major confrontation.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China
Sea and has backed up its position by expanding small islets and
building airstrips and harbors.
China foreign ministry
spokesman Lu Kang: "We hope non-regional countries can respect this
consensus that is in the fundamental interest of the whole world."
Tillerson: "This is a threat to the entire global economy if
China is allowed to somehow dictate the terms of passage through
China warns that "no effort to
internationalize and judicialize the South China Sea issue will be
of any avail" and will only make it harder to resolve the issue.
US Air Power
The US Marine Corps is sending 16 F-35B Lightning II
stealth fighters to Japan. At over $100 million each, the jets
showcase US "commitment to the defense of Japan with the most
capable and modern equipment in the US inventory," says the USMC.
"It will be the cornerstone of a multi-mission joint force
possessing improved mission flexibility and unprecedented
effectiveness to engage and destroy both air and ground threats."
China: Sea Power
President Xi Jinping will turn China into
a maritime superpower. One Belt One Road is his plan to boost
investment and commerce in over 60 countries in Asia, the Mideast,
Africa, and Europe.
Since 2010, Chinese and Hong Kong
companies have completed or announced deals involving at least
40 port projects worth a total of over $45 billion. The Pakistani
port of Gwadar is owned, financed, and built by China as the core
element in a $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
2015, the five big Chinese cargo carriers together controlled almost
a fifth of all container shipping handled by the global top 20
companies. By then, nearly two-thirds of the top 50 container ports
worldwide had some Chinese investment, handling over two-thirds of
global container volumes.
Chinese port operators are world
leaders and Chinese shipping companies carry more cargo than those
of any other nation. In Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Greece, and Djibouti,
Chinese investment in civilian ports has been followed by navy
deployments or visits or construction of a naval base.
aims to deny US aircraft carrier battle groups access to the seas
within a string of archipelagos from Japan to Vietnam — the first
AR China aims to
keep US carrier groups outside the first island chain with its
DF-21D missiles (blog 2010-12-29).
2017 January 12
By blaming them for leaking a dossier on
efforts by the Kremlin to cultivate and compromise him, Donald Trump
has declared war on US intelligence officials.
tweet and press conference took aim at the BuzzFeed release of a
35-page dossier that carries unverified allegations of collusion
between the Trump camp and the Kremlin. Trump calls the entire
Former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey says the
tweet "reads as if Trump is trying to deflect focus from these
devastating, though unverified allegations, by attempting additional
smears vilifying intelligence professionals."
Trump Nailed It
Trump has two big priorities: building
the wall and repealing and replacing Obamacare. He compared the
behavior of some within the intelligence community to Nazis. He
signaled that speculation on his relationship with Vladimir Putin
will not shift his position toward Russia. And he concluded that
Russia was probably guilty of hacking, but that will cease once
Trump is in charge.
Trainwreck Press Conference
The Trump presidency is already in
shambles. Team Trump seems happy to shine a bright light on its own
monumental mistakes. The president-elect celebrated the Russian
hacking of the DNC and all those leaked emails. Now he even brags
about his Russian connection: "If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess
what folks, that is called an asset, not a liability. Do you
honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me?
Give me a break."
2017 January 11
After my election, there was talk of a
post-racial America. Such a vision, however well intended, was never
realistic. ... For every two steps forward, it often feels we take
one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by
forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace
We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialog
to become so corrosive that people of good character aren't even
willing to enter into public service, so coarse with rancor that we
see Americans with whom we disagree as not just misguided but as
We weaken those ties when we define some of us as
more American than others, when we write off the whole system as
inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we
elect without examining our own role in electing them.
AR He always set a good tone.
White House Advice
The New York Times
Jared Kushner will become a senior
White House adviser to his father-in-law, Donald Trump. Kushner, 35,
married Ivanka Trump in 2009. Some ethics experts question whether
his appointment is legal under federal anti-nepotism laws.
Transition staff members describe Kushner as the first among equals
in the Trump high command. He is said to have a calming effect on
his father-in-law. He became the de facto campaign manager in the
spring and his influence expanded rapidly.
Kushner is an
orthodox Jew, a Harvard graduate, and a lifelong Democrat. Liberals
greeted his appointment with relief. He will resign as chief
executive of Kushner Companies and divest himself of assets
including 666 Fifth Avenue and his holdings in
The New York Observer.
AR So far so good ...
is the son of real estate developer and Democratic party donor
Charles Kushner. Charles made a $2.5 million donation to Harvard
University in 1998. Jared was accepted there in 1999 and earned a
degree in sociology in 2003.
While at Harvard, Jared made
money buying and selling buildings, supported by the family fortune.
His net worth is estimated at $200 million. At age 25, he bought the
New York Observer for $10 million.
In 2005, Charles Kushner
was convicted on 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax
evasion, and witness tampering. He served time in a federal prison.
Jared practises Orthodox Judaism, and Ivanka Trump*
converted before they wed in 2009. His grandparents escaped the
Nazis, and his grandmother Rae was a founder of the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Trump was born in 1981 as the daughter of Donald and Ivana Trump**.
in economics from the University of
Pennsylvania in 2004, then joined the family business.
**Ivana Trump was born in Czechoslovakia
and moved to Canada, where she worked as a model.
moved to New York, married Donald Trump in 1977, and divorced him in
In October 2016,
The New York Observer asked its
proprietor a question: Hillary or Donald? Jared: "Family first."
AR A new twist on the first family.
2017 January 10
Once Donald Trump is inaugurated as
POTUS, the United States will make its own rules. Trump aims to
repudiate TPP, renegotiate NAFTA, and impose hefty duties on Chinese
imports. Yet he is happy to side with Russian president Vladimir
Trump wants to make America great again. His ideas are
a jumble of economic nationalism, antipathy to globalism, hostility
to immigrants, hatred of Islamist extremism, and a dim view of great
power relations. He disdains NATO and equivocates with East Asian
Trump has promised to renounce US climate
obligations. He could strike a deal with Putin over the heads of
Europe, disavow the nuclear agreement with Iran, build a wall
against Mexican immigrants, and shut the US border to Muslims. All
this is isolationist swagger.
US allies have already
concluded that Trump is neither predictable nor reliable. China is
determined to translate its economic power into geopolitical clout
despite provocative tweets. And Putin doubtless thinks he will get
the better of Trump.
Detaching US national interests from its
international commitments is impossible. Economic interdependence
cannot be wished away and military might has its limits. The new
president will find most of his goals out of reach to America Alone.
2017 January 9
UK prime minister Theresa May: "Often people
talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want
to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU. We are leaving. We are
coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer. We
will be able to have control of our borders, control of our laws."
On January 20, Donald Trump takes the oath of office
and becomes the POTUS. For the first time in his life, he will be
employed outside his family business. At age 70, he will become
accountable to the American people.
Trump has never had to
reboot himself in anything like the manner now required. But when
his companies ran out of money to pay their lenders and filed for
bankruptcy in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009, he had to accept the strict
terms and oversight required by bankruptcy agreements.
Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump wrote a lot of
books about business: "They all seem to end at Chapter 11. He
bankrupted his companies, not once, not twice, but four times."
Wrong: Trump actually has six bankruptcies.
Researchers hacked ion channels to alter
bioelectric signaling in tadpoles engineered to develop cancer. They
reduced the incidence of tumor formation and made tumor cells return
to a healthy state.
Researchers increased the bioelectric
traffic between cells in froglets past the age at which they can
regenerate full limbs and made them do so anyway.
regenerative capabilities too.
2017 January 8
Deutschland bedeutet für die
Deutschen nicht mehr eine Frage ihrer politischen Identität. Heute
geht es um die Frage nach dem kulturellen Kern.
Was es heute
heißt, deutsch zu sein — darüber können sich die Deutschen, die mit
einer furchtbaren Geschichte, einer rauen Zuwanderungsgegenwart und
einem schwer angekratzten Ego konfrontiert sind, am ehesten noch im
In den Augen vieler Beobachter ist das
deutsche Problem die Gründlichkeit, mit der viele Deutsche die
Migranten zur endgültigen Säuberung der befleckten Nationalhistorie
und zur Umerziehung der eigenen Bevölkerung nutzen wollen.
schlägt die Verleugnung allen Deutschseins in einen Chauvinismus der
Vaterlandslosigkeit um. Schwer ist es, anderen Europäern die
Abgründe solch moralischen Großreinemachens zu erklären.
Vielleicht wenn die Deutschen sich selbst sympathischer wären und
sie sich zugleich weniger ernst nähmen, dann wäre nicht nur den
Deutschen, sondern auch unseren Nachbarn gleich viel wohler mit
diesem sonderbaren Gebilde.
Als Europäer sind die Deutschen bestens aufgenommen, die Briten eher
Britain turned down the chance to buy a fleet of second-hand
German tanks. Leopard manufacturer
KMW offered to sell 100 to 400
old Leopard 2 tanks to the Ministry of Defence in 2015. They would
have been upgraded to new A7V standard.
The UK government has instead selected two other companies — BAE
Systems and Rheinmetall — as the final bidders for the Challenger 2
Defense industry source: "They made that
offer to us and we should have taken it but there was an arrogance:
we invented the tank, we have to have a British tank."
the idea is not yet dead: "If it turns out that buying second-hand
would work out cheaper overall then finance is king. If it is
cheaper they will go that way."
Buy Leopards. Our NATO boys on the Eastern Front will need
US Army Abrams tanks on
maneuvers in Latvia, summer 2016.
A shipload of Abrams tanks
was unloaded Friday in Bremerhaven for
forward deployment in
Poland as part of operation Atlantic Resolve.
President Trump could
launch 140 warheads
in the time it takes to
Wings Over Illawarra
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
(Werk-Nr. 173056) to fly at
Illawarra Air Show
2017-05-06 — 2017-05-07
Orion on SLS
Arnie for Prez!
Celebrity Apprentice made
Trump a reality TV star.
The new 2017 season stars
AR But he was
2017 January 7
The Baltic states are in the EU and NATO but
Russia is boosting its military presence in Kaliningrad. Estonian
foreign minister Sven Mikser: "We have always seen the US as our
strongest ally. US participation has given NATO its credibility."
AR Past performance is no guarantee
of future results.
Physicists are at odds about measurement
in quantum mechanics.
Suppose you measure
the spin of an electron in an arbitrarily chosen direction. There
are only two possible results, namely plus or minus a certain
number, up or down, corresponding to an electron that is spinning
either clockwise or counter-clockwise in the chosen direction.
Before you measure it, the spin is a superposition of up and down,
each with its own amplitude. The act of measuring the spin somehow
collapses the superposition to up or down.
If we disregard
everything about an electron but its spin, its wave function is a
pair of amplitudes, one number for each sign of the spin in any
chosen direction. The wave function of an electron whose spin has
not been measured generally has nonzero values for spins of both
signs. The probabilities of finding either up or down for the spin
in a chosen direction are proportional to the squares of the
amplitudes in that direction.
A measurement puts the spin in
an interaction with a macroscopic environment that causes the
superposition of states in the wave function to collapse to one
state, unpredictably. But the Schrödinger equation is deterministic.
Given the wave function at any moment, the equation will tell you
precisely what the wave function will be at any future time.
The realist approach to quantum mechanics implies a multiverse. When
you measure the spin of an electron in some direction, the wave
function of the electron and your measuring apparatus becomes a
superposition of two terms, in one of which the electron spin is up
and you see it is up, and in the other of which the spin is down and
you see it is down. The history of the world splits every time a big
body becomes entangled with a superposition of states. The set of
all histories is the multiverse, and its wave function evolves
An entangled state involves correlations
between parts of the system. Suppose we have a pair of electrons
whose total spin in any direction is zero and whose wave function
(ignoring everything but spin) is a sum of two terms: in one term,
electron A is up and electron B is down in some direction, while in
the other term up and down are reversed. The spins are entangled,
and this entangled state can persist even if the electrons fly apart
to a great distance.
All data so far agree with ordinary
My suggested approach (2006):
Each of us lives in a phenomenal world with its own bubble of
spacetime, which is growing in qubit increments. At any
moment of phenomenal now, our reality is bounded by our past light
cone. Whenever we collapse an entanglement, we pop out spacetime by
another qubit (or more, depending on the granularity of quantized
spacetime). Entangled states are local until we collapse or pop them. Decoherence is the phenomenal manifestation of
popping qubits, and corresponds to spontaneous symmetry
breaking at the Planck scale. The Everett multiverse replaces the
Einstein block universe as background for all our phenomenal worlds.
My proximal inspiration for this epiphany was the book
Quo Vadis Quantum Mechanics? (ed. Elitzur et al., Springer
2005). This is the sort of vision I was hoping for in Richard
Muller's 2016 book
Now — but I was disappointed. Sadly, I lack the mathematical
skill to work out the technical details in a
preprint for arXiv.
2017 January 6
We are living at the end of the era of US
It has been a huge overall success. Global average
real incomes per head rose by 460% between 1950 and 2015. The
proportion of the global population in extreme poverty has fallen
from 72% in 1950 to 10% in 2015, and life expectancy at birth has
risen from 48 years in 1950 to 71 in 2015.
generation of relative economic decline, the US, the EU, and Japan
still produce over half of global output measured at market prices
and over a third measured at PPP. They host the biggest global
companies, dominant financial markets, leading universities, and
strongest cultures. The US military will remain global top dog for
But across the West, slow growth and aging
populations have taken their toll. Politicians can longer promise
more for everybody and have to take from some to give to others. The
winners have been the rich, making those in the middle and lower
incomes more fearful and more prone to racism and xenophobia.
If the West fails, China might find greatness thrust upon it.
AR Hegel conceived global history as
the steady march of the Weltgeist through the millennia from China
to India to the Mideast and Mediterranean to Europe and then to
America. Now we see the Weltgeist complete its world tour and start
a new orbit from China.
A man born in London to German parents has
been told he cannot get a British passport unless he takes a UK
citizenship test. Dom Wolf, 32, said his parents came to Britain in
1974 when his mother started work as an LSE lecturer. He has now
been told he needs to prove they were in the UK legally — yet they
moved under EU law.
AR Makes me
feel like doing a personal Brexit.
2017 January 5
Moon or Mars?
European Space Agency director general Jan
Woerner says a lunar village is the natural successor to the ISS.
The United States is the obvious partner to fund and spearhead such
an effort. But to land humans on the Moon, let alone build a
village, will take a program as big as Apollo.
A Moon base
lets you dig mines and make money. The Moon is only a few days away
from Earth and it has lots of helium 3. The isotope is rare on Earth
but the Moon has collected it for billions of years. There is an
estimated 1.1 Tg of He 3 on the moon, and just 40 Mg of He 3 in
fusion reactors could power the United States for a year.
NASA is focused on its Journey to Mars program. But it will use the
space between the Earth and the Moon to test life support and
propulsion systems for any Mars expedition. The Space Launch System
and the Orion spacecraft, holdovers from the Mars space exploration
initiative canceled in 2009, are ready for moonshots.
Americans cannot afford both a Moon base and a Mars colony. Building
either is the cheap part — the operational costs are what add up. A
Moon base delays Mars until after the lunar base design,
construction, operations, maintenance, and divestment. That could
AR I say go for the
Moon base for now. It will ripen the tech we need for Mars. A Moon
base was part of the plot in my 1996 novel
The sporadically repeating fast radio burst FRB121102
with duration 3 ms has been traced to the dwarf galaxy PGC1000714
some 30 Ym away. Cornell University researcher Shami Chatterjee: "We
think it may be a magnetar — a newborn neutron star with a huge
magnetic field, inside a supernova remnant or a pulsar wind nebula —
somehow producing these prodigious pulses."
AR See blog 2016-03-03. A neutron star
signaling us starred in my 1996 novel
UK vs EU
Britain never really joined the EU. For
France, Germany, Italy, and the rest, the union was a political
project with emotional roots. For Brits, it was a commercial
Politicians at Westminster have never quite
shaken off the conviction that the enterprise is destined at some
point to fail. Each further step toward integration has been greeted
with scorn. Even now, many Brexiteers claim to be leaving a sinking
For German leaders especially, the union is a vessel
for European values. It is an enterprise that underpins the peace,
stability, and democracy of the continent. The EU has a meaning and
purpose beyond the export of bottles of fizz and expensive cars.
2017 January 4
EU politicians want strategic autonomy in
defense, without relying on the United States. But they have long
failed to raise collective defense spending. Now Brexit and Trump
create new urgency:
Good — Without
the UK the EU can at last get moving on its defense plans. To
prevent plans for an EU operational headquarters duplicating NATO,
the HQ covers only training and civilian operations.
Bad — Brexit will cost the EU one of its
two credible military powers. New plans mean little if the EU lacks
capabilities and forces, so the EU should try to keep the UK
involved in EU military affairs.
The Trump presidency will likely spur more defense spending
by EU states. But the US security guarantee is already weakened.
Some EU leaders are concerned about Trump ties to the Kremlin.
AR With weakened US and UK
commitments to European security, the EU27 states are vulnerable.
They could not resist a serious Russian military push and must
temporize with appeasement until new defense plans are in place. If
Trump befriends Putin, this is a viable strategy.
next move is for the UK to boost its commitment to defending EU
states in return for EU accepting UK membership of the single market
despite a Fortress UK border clampdown. The boost, above the NATO
commitment, would include an immediate nuclear guarantee and initial
work on a future shared Anglo-French deterrent.
UK representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers quits, citing
"ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking" over Brexit from
UK prime minister Theresa May is facing
fresh claims that her government is turning a deaf ear to news and
advice on Brexit it does not want to hear.
supporter Peter Mandelson: "Everyone knows that civil servants are
being increasingly inhibited in offering objective opinion and
advice to ministers."
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg: "I
think it is crucial that whoever represents us in Brussels is wholly
committed to Brexit."
Klartext: Drink the Kool-Aid!
2017 January 3
Scientists: Keep Iran Deal
The New York Times
Dozens of top US scientists wrote to
PEOTUS Trump on Monday to urge him not to dismantle the Iran nuclear
deal: "We urge you to preserve this critical US strategic asset."
The letter was organized by
Richard L. Garwin, who helped design the first hydrogen bomb and
has long advised Washington on nuclear weapons and arms control.
Long before Donald Trump vowed to make
America great again, China, Russia, and Turkey had already
established the fashion for nostalgic nationalism. Democracies are
not immune to nostalgia — look at Japan, India, Hungary, and
Globalization and the relative decline of the West
increase nostalgia for a more nationalist past. But neither Putin
nor Xi is keen to discuss the crimes of Stalin and Mao, and Germans
would nix a vow to make Germany great again.
2017 January 2
Robocars — Upside
Autonomous cars will offer better safety
features and more efficiency. Semiautonomous cars are in showrooms
today. Completely autonomous cars are set to be available by the end
of the decade.
The social and economic implications are
enormous. They will transform the auto industry business model.
Related businesses, such as telecoms, software, media, freight
transportation, semiconductors, and insurance, will also face
disruption and opportunity.
Autonomous cars could contribute
$1.3 trillion in annual savings to the US economy. Annual US
productivity gains alone would be over $500 billion. Global savings
could be over $5.6 trillion.
The auto industry will have to
shift gears. The growth of software as a part of the car is likely
to divide the industry into dedicated hardware and software makers,
with a crucial role for vertical integration. This structure would
resemble that of the smartphone or computer industries.
of the concerns or obstacles to mass adoption of autonomous vehicles
are largely practical or procedural. Technology is not an issue. The
capability to make a robocar is largely available today and only
needs incremental research and development.
Public opinion on
robocars remains split. Acceptance and adoption will take time.
Potential obstacles include building sufficient infrastructure,
government regulation, and ethical issues.
Robocars — Downside
An autonomous car that relies on a human to save
the day in an emergency is not going to work. Humans make horrible
backups — they are inattentive, easily distracted, and slow to
respond. So automakers will be taking you out of the equation
Full autonomy — no steering wheel, no pedals, no
human backup — is the best way forward. Google figured this out
around 2012. The shift came as automakers recognized the difficulty
of the handoff — getting the person behind the wheel to take control
Level 2 autonomous cars can keep their lane and
handle rush-hour gridlock. Level 3 autonomy defines cars that can
make basic decisions like when to change lanes or pass other
vehicles. Level 3 requires making sure the car can handle any
situation for several seconds while the human wakes up and takes
Level 3 autonomy is difficult to justify. If every car
on the road featured Level 2 capabilities, fatal automobile
collisions would drop by 80% already. Full autonomy brings more
safety improvements while also bringing mobility to people who
cannot drive, automating deliveries, and creating other
Google started with a system that could handle
highway driving with human oversight. But engineers soon realized
those humans were lulled into paying zero attention and would be all
but useless in emergencies. So they are going straight to levels 4
and 5 and pursuing full autonomy.
Most automakers started
planning to progress steadily through the levels. Ford was among the
first to break ranks, announcing in late 2015 that it would skip
Level 3. Audi has invested heavily in the handoff and plans to bring
Level 3 to the showroom in 2018.
Audi is also pursuing full
autonomy. General Motors is buying robocar startups and Ford is
rebranding itself as a mobility company. Car sharing and other
alternatives to ownership are growing in popularity, and upstarts
like Uber see an opportunity to push established players aside.
Uber wants to drop the human chauffeurs in taxi cabs. Google
could configure robocabs for riders to use its other services.
Cities hosting fleets of robocabs get a new way to cut congestion
and solve parking problems.
2017 January 1
Frank Wilczek won his Nobel Prize
in 2004 for breakthroughs on the mathematical foundations of quantum
chromodynamics — our theory of how quarks make atomic nuclei — and
is a passionate advocate of the supersymmetric extension of current
theory that would deepen it yet further ...
authors of books on physics for poets, Wilczek is not patronizing
and does not seek to erase the technical truth behind his readable
gloss on the quest for deep beauty. On the contrary, he puts his
passions on show with rapturous outpourings of praise for the
creative impulse behind the visions he beholds — and then cites
details in appended explanations of his terms of art that spell out
the cash value of even his most apparently overblown rhetoric that
show he chose every word carefully, and meant it.
clearly a book that transcends most of the glosses on physics that
litter bookshops today. As an addict of such books, ever hopeful of
striking gold but too often disappointed, I am confident it will
stand as a classic of its kind a century from now.
Jonathan Franzen is a good writer
and Purity is a good novel. With a story about a star German hacker,
whose proclaimed mission is to let sunlight disinfect the dirty
secrets of this world, and a mixed cast of hapless Americans,
who unwittingly reveal deeper downsides of modern life, this book
could have been written for me ...
The best novelists manage
to achieve a forensic detachment from their subjects that gives the
reader space to air dissenting views. Franzen did well at standing
back, but ... the characters all seemed like nightmare products of
Franzen's imagination, with exactly the lack of frontal lobe
function that dream figures often display.
By any normal
standards it was a fine novel.
Three F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters represent our
trillion-dollar bet on the future of the West
AR O for a winter break
with warm wind and sun
Laura Williams Photography
laundry — where?
AR My festive
season is reading
by Jonathan Franzen
cool and conformist
(sample size 1)
LGM-30 Minuteman Launch
"That's what the world
needs now: a POTUS
who tweets about
Paris Hilton in paradise
AR We might join her
David Bowie's widow Iman, 61
Evolution and the Big Bang
are real and God is not
magician with a magic wand,
declared Pope Francis to the
Academy of Sciences. Experts say his comments put
the kybosh on the
theories of creationism
and intelligent design.
of an Asian millennium
triumph and tragedy
— my Amazon review of
by S. Frederick Starr
POTUS 45 elected
US Electors vote today for
POTUS 45. Trump trails in the
popular vote by over 2.5 million
— the third-worst vote margin among
Privatize the military
and see how we like the
social consequences of
their funding drives.
Deepest Mandelbrot Set Zoom
Ever In 2014: 10^198
Mandelbrot Set Back Story
2016 New Year's Eve
Happy New Tweet
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always
knew he was very smart!
AR We all
look forward to a new era of harmonious progress.
In the West, liberty and law on the one
hand and popular participation on the other created liberal
democracy. This culture of liberal democracy is waning in the United
The Founding Fathers conceived of America as a
republic to mitigate some of the dangers of illiberal democracy. The
United States developed a democratic culture, formed in large part
by a series of informal buffers that weakened the sway of the
majority. A professional elite ensured that US society and
government would focus on the national interest.
prevailing dynamics in US society over the past few decades have
been toward greater democratic openness and market efficiency. We
are about to see what American democracy looks like without buffers
in the way of populism and demagoguery.
AR Liberal humanism as we know it is past its best-before
2016 December 30
The New York Times
Differences between Israel and the
United States have boiled over into a diplomatic confrontation.
Israeli policy, under the government of prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, has evolved away from an acceptance of a negotiated
two-state resolution with the Palestinians.
A UN Security
Council resolution condemned Israeli settlement building in the West
Bank and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration chose to abstain
from the vote rather than to block it.
Under any negotiated
solution, Israelis expect their capital to be Jerusalem. But
Palestinians also want Jerusalem as their capital, as well as access
to the Muslim holy sites.
This is the cynical logic of the
settlement movement: When the world is silent, Israel can build
settlements; when the world objects, Israel must build settlements.
Under any scenario, the possibility of a two-state solution will
The Palestinians are divided and their leaders
malicious or hapless. Hamas rules in the Gaza Strip and the
Palestinian Authority governs in the West Bank. The settlements are
US secretary of state John Kerry warned that
without a two-state solution, Israel faces a choice between being a
Jewish state and a democracy. If Israel annexes the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip, Palestinians become the majority in greater Israel.
Israelis can either let them vote and lose its identity or deny them
and lose its democracy.
The Israeli far right imagines a
different one-state solution. Egypt takes over the Gaza Strip,
Israel holds most of the West Bank, Jordan takes most former West
Bank residents, and Jerusalem comes entirely under Israeli control.
AR A Palestinian state is not a
viable solution in the present political climate. Hard though it
seems, Israel must prevail against Islamist opposition.
Syrian Civil War
Americans see the carnage in Syria as a
humanitarian disaster. But the humanitarian crisis is just one of
the consequences of the US approach to the Syrian civil war:
1 Barack Obama says Syria is of no great
strategic importance to the United States. This breaks with decades
of geostrategic thinking. If Russia displaces US power in the
Mideast, it will affect US influence across the region.
2 Europe has struggled for decades to
assimilate Muslim arrivals from the Mideast and Africa. But the new
waves of Syrian refugees have created a crisis. Several EU states
are in turmoil.
3 The Obama
administration was slow to counter the gathering strength of Daesh.
The terrorist outfit is on the defensive now, but it continues to
plot and spur terrorism in the West.
The delay on Daesh also forced the United States to change its
strategy in Syria. Obama directed US military power to the fight
against Daesh, turning his attention from Assad.
5 Obama said in 2012 that if Assad were
to use chemical weapons, he would cross a red line and trigger US
military intervention. A year later, when evidence showed that Assad
had used them, Obama backed down from reprisals.
avoided another quagmire but went too far. His approach neither
strengthened American influence nor helped to make a safer world.
AR Blame the Nobel Peace Prize
committee for giving him an ideal to live up to.
British Dirty Laundry
Billions of dollars are laundered through the
London real estate market every year, contributing to an estimated
annual total of $125 billion laundered in Britain.
law is on the side of the kleptocrats. An autocrat on the run can
create a shell company to hide his identity and the source of his
illicit wealth, and then use this instrument to purchase property
incognito. London bankers, brokers, and lawyers will ask no awkward
questions as they take their commissions.
companies now own nearly 40,000 London properties. Some of these
purchases may be legitimate and innocent, but Transparency
International founds this technique has been used for three-quarters
of properties whose owners have been investigated for corruption in
The London Laundromat is destroying the country's
reputation. Across the former Soviet Union, Britain is now seen as a
partner in corruption, not democracy.
An amendment now in parliament can fix this, but only with
zealous application of the law. I fear that Brexiteers may seek to
indulge the kleptocrats in order to boost British finances.
Austrian Word of the Year
2016 December 29
The Chinese are keen to understand the West and its success.
They think Christianity has something to do with it. They perceive
that Western civilization has enduring characteristics to which
Christianity has made a signal contribution and which are quite
distinct from traditional Chinese civilization and modern communist
Within the West, some draw exaggerated contrasts
between Christendom and the Islamic world in the medieval period,
between imperial Europe and Asia in the 19th century, between
liberal democracies and the Soviet empire in the 20th, and between
the West and the rest now.
Westerners have found much to
admire in other cultures and have borrowed liberally from them.
Algebra from the Islamic world, cuisine from India, paper and
gunpowder from China, and fine arts from Japan are just the
highlights. Members of other cultures can grasp and appropriate
Western ideas too — Africans and Asians are sometimes better
humanists than contemporary Westerners.
Truth, goodness, and
beauty transcend time and place. No one culture has a monopoly of
wisdom, but some values are more at home in one culture than
another. The primacy of the individual over the state is arguably
more entrenched in those Western cultures shaped by Christianity
than in those eastern ones shaped by Confucianism.
Europe was well acquainted with individualism, democracy, political
liberty, and rationality. The prominence of the individual in the
West stems from the Christian notion of the prophet called to stand
up for individual justice. Christian social roots anchored an
institutional separation of church and state in the West, which
created space for a flourishing civil society generally lacking in
the Islamic world.
Pre-modern Christendom was no stranger to
reason. Scholastic theologians pushed natural science in an
empirical direction by affirming the biblical contingency of the
created world against Aristotelian necessity. What could have been
other than it is in fact can only be known by observation, not
AR The Christian
individual is a person guided by an inner light. This light is
reason for a Hellenic soul and revelation for a Judaic one, but the
Christian concept merged the two in a synthesis that survived until
communists subverted it and forced the evolution of modern humanism.
We are now seeing the emergence of a cyborg environmentalism that
merges humans with technology and individualist thinking with
planetary consciousness —
2016 December 28
Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued in
1971 that belief in generalizations based on overly small sample
sizes was a bias of cognition. They went on to show that mistakes in
human judgment are not exceptions but the rule. Kahneman went on to
win a Nobel Prize in 2002, and his 2011 book
Thinking, Fast and Slow became a huge success.
of the findings Kahneman cited in the book appear to be fragile,
even spurious. Studies mentioned there started to dissolve as
scientists tried and failed to reproduce the original results.
The problem was the one he had identified in 1971: The researchers
were fooled by faulty intuitions about randomness.
Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel, Sam Harris
neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in
maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence. We presented 40
liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held
political and non-political views. Our results highlight the role of
emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the
neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning,
and related phenomena.
Participants were especially resistant
to arguments against their political beliefs. Given the personal
importance of political beliefs for the subjects enrolled in this
study, we expected our stimuli to evoke cognition related to social
identity. We found that individual differences in resistance to
belief change correlated with activity in brain regions important
for the generation of emotions, feelings, and social judgments.
All of our participants were strong liberals. It is not clear
how well these results would generalize to conservatives. Several
studies have found structural or functional differences between the
brains of conservatives and liberals.
Sample size 40.
2016 December 27
contact with advanced alien visitors was the theme of
Arrival. Huge ellipsoidal spacecraft came to hover silently over
various spots of Earth and human experts sought to communicate with
them. Amy Adams played the language expert who made first meaningful
contact with the squid-like inhabitants of one of the ellipsoids.
Their messages looked like splashed rings from wet coffee cups and
she had a hard time making any sense of them. After humans worldwide
struggled to guess a few words that seemed to form a vague message
and military authorities began to get edgy, the spacecraft silently
headed off, leaving a host of unanswered questions.
Communication is a deep philosophical enigma, and Arrival dramatized
the issue superbly. The movie also forced us to confront our
immaturity as a species by spacefaring standards. Civilized squids
exploring the galaxy in giant ellipsoids would naturally find it
hard to strike up a conversation with us, not only on the technical
level but also in terms of what there was to say. The Adams
character was moved in ways she found unable to express, and that
seemed a bigger payoff than any new equation to warp spacetime or
whatever. This was a movie for philosophers.
Passengers could almost have been written to a formula. Avalon,
a giant space cruiser bearing five thousand aspiring colonists in
hibernation to a remote Earth-like planet, hits a cloud of space
rubble and suffers damage. The story is set in a far enough future
that the ship is on a fairly routine voyage using proven technology
and the the passengers are as safe as on an ocean-going cruise liner
on Earth today. But they are on a one-way voyage to a planet many
light-years away. For a technophile, the visualization of this great
vessel is surely the main treat in this movie.
The plot of
Passengers relies in part on surprise, so it may be unwise to say
too much, but the main plot line is the developing relationship
between two passengers, Jim and Aurora (played by Chris Pratt and
Jennifer Lawrence), after first Jim and then Aurora wake up from
hibernation following malfunctions caused by the rubble collision,
some ninety years before arrival at the destination planet. As their
lonely wakefulness in the huge public spaces of the ship works on
them and as the ship suffers escalating malfunctions, the movie
artfully evokes moods from such earlier classics as The Shining, set
in an empty hotel, and Titanic, set on a sinking ship. Jim gradually
masters his initial despair and seeks to repair the ship, while
Aurora goes through a gamut of heartfelt emotions that Lawrence
plays impressively well.
Arrival and Passengers are two very
different movies, but they complement each other in ways that reward
comparative reflection. Arrival shows how little one can say about
the problems of saying anything at all. A single note of mystic
bafflement is allowed to ring out loud and clear, with no more or
less to convey than a Zen gong in a religious retreat. Passengers
shows how even a formulaic plot can be redeemed by loving attention
to the technically plausible visualization of the interior and
exterior details of an interstellar passenger cruiser.
me, this makes Passengers the more interesting movie despite my
wholehearted admiration for the evocation of the mystic side of
communication in Arrival. Scientists may do genuine homage to deep
philosophy, but in the end they spend most of their time and effort
on the technology, and hence get most of their kicks from it. And
few scientists will fail to enjoy seeing J-Law in action.
2016 December 26
World War 3
The United States and Russia are drifting
toward a new cold war. Many of the nuclear weapon systems on both
sides are aging and obsolete. The USAF Global Strike Command has 440
Minuteman III ICBMs, relics of the Cold War, sitting in underground
silos, ready to take off within 2 minutes, to deter a surprise
The US nuclear war plan is the Single Integrated
Operational Plan (SIOP). It depended on getting Minuteman missiles
off the ground immediately. The plan called for the destruction of
12,000 targets within the Soviet Union, with 400 nuclear weapons
targeted on Moscow alone.
Missiles launched from Russia would give
POTUS about 20 minutes to respond. Missiles launched from Russian
submarines in the western Atlantic would give him only 5 minutes. A
decision to launch Minuteman missiles on warning would kill millions
The United States has taken precautions to thwart
a cyberattack on its nuclear command and control system. If landline
communications between Minuteman control centers and their missiles
are interrupted, the missiles can still be launched by UHF radio
signals from Air Force One. The radio link creates an entry point
for a possible cyberattack.
Hundreds of missiles based on US
Navy submarines also deter a Russian attack. But they too may be
compromised by malware. The Royal Navy saves money by using Windows
for Submarines, a version of Windows XP, on its ballistic missile
subs. Microsoft support for Windows XP ended in 2014.
is modernizing its nuclear arsenal. The Russian leadership is
terrified of a decapitation strike. A first strike is probably the
only imaginable route to decisive victory in nuclear war. Vladimir
Putin: "When a fight is inevitable, you have to hit first."
POTUS has sole power to order the use of US nuclear weapons, with no
legal obligation to consult anyone else.
AR Schlosser is an expert on all this.
His 2013 book
Command and Control is terrifying.
2016 Christmas Day
If I am a sovereign being, my
free will is hard to find, and must defy the findings of
neuroscience. If a public polity is to be sovereign, it must set its
face against a well developed international order, with global rules
on peace and war, trade and markets, and human rights and duties. If
freedom is power, it must escape the chains of rules that bind our
In personal or political life, the scientific
constraints on free will fall behind in the admission that no well
founded prediction can be derived in time to make effective
decisions. If I wait for the scientific story to unfold, the moment
has passed and my act is choked. Life as we know it involves acting
fast, in real time, and the power to do so is our freedom.
Politicians are paid to make choices on behalf of those who put them
in power. Voters may be pushed by powers beyond their control to
vote as they do, but the laws of large numbers average out the
wilder impulses and the rulers who emerge can count on a steady
base. Still, the focused power that remains is hostage to a cloud of
neural and social fortune.
In both personal and political
life, seeking to escape the wheel of fortune is a fatal error. The
road to absolute sovereignty is a hard one, and going with the flow
is usually the better way. If I choose autonomy, to be my own boss
and do my own thing, I must defy the gods, but if I work with others
in similar predicaments I can make peace with my fate.
Neuroscience tells me that my brain has evolved to maintain the
illusion of control, to steer me away from entanglements and toward
a felt sense of freedom. But history shows that people must moderate
their natural impulses if they want to live together in harmony.
Politicians naturally want sovereignty, but they should beware of
what they wish for.
2016 December 24
I started this book with high hopes and found
the first half really interesting, then it went downhill fast.
Muller is obviously an excellent experimental physicist and has
understood Einstein's theories of relativity, at least, really well.
He also gives workmanlike accounts of large parts of particle
physics and the basics of quantum theory ...
That said, the
denouement in Part V is an utter disappointment.
2016 December 23
Trump Tweet Translated
PEOTUS Trump appears to have declared US
nuclear weapons policy in a tweet:
"The United States must greatly
strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
has a meticulous language all its own, but his words fall outside
The word "strengthen" is not in its lexicon
but may mean
— Modernize existing nuclear forces by upgrading
President Obama's plan
— Expand qualitative nuclear capability by
developing improved delivery systems
— Deploy existing weapons
systems closer to adversaries
The word "expand" may mean
Move some warheads from reserve stockpiles to active deployment
Build and deploy new warheads
— Build new warheads and stockpile
Strengthening and expansion may mean increasing
number and yield of nuclear warheads
— The speed, stealth, range,
or other attributes of weapons that deliver them
"until such time"
— As I want
— As is necessary to maintain
the status quo
— As certain foreign states fulfill certain
— All nuclear weapons states
Russia and China
The aim may be to
Avoid any escalation that might disturb the global status quo
Continue until the world accepts American nuclear primacy
Continue until we get global nuclear disarmament
in capability would force Russia and China to respond, increase the
number of nuclear conflict scenarios, and reduce the response time
in a crisis. The Obama plan to update the nuclear arsenal is already
projected to cost $1 trillion.
The Fall of Language in the Age of English
This book was written for those who, in
moments of solitude, quietly worry about the future of Japanese
literature and the Japanese language. It is for those who think that
what is being written in Japanese today is ultimately of little
relevance but who wish, with mingled despair and resignation, that
at the very least more people would read Japanese literature written
in those years when it was deserving of the name.
AR My stab at learning Japanese in
Japan, plus my reading of classic Japanese novels in English
translation, suggests this despairing reflection is right. There was
a fragile delicacy in the culture that appears like a vanishing
world through the prism of English global hegemony.
2016 December 22
In 1975 David Bowie was in Los Angeles
pretending to star in a movie. In an interview for Rolling Stone he
talked about the drugs he preferred. Station to Station, which he
released in January 1976, was about as far from Kiss and Led
Zeppelin and the Eagles as you could possibly get.
A key to
his success in the 1970s was that his rock superstar personae,
including Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, were both up on a
pedestal and down in the everyday dirt. As an artist, writer, actor,
singer, Bowie was good, but could never join the ranks of the greats
in any of those areas. The huge surge of affection when he died came
about partly because people felt he remained a kid who never forgot
where he was from.
Bowie met the Somalian supermodel Iman in
1990 and he sobered up. Watching Bowie selling himself to the world
was a depressing sight. To fall to Earth, you have to have been way
up in the stars.
AR I liked the
late Bowie. Sobering up is a seal of quality.
The Soviet Union
The Soviet Union in 1985 possessed much the
same resources as it had a decade earlier. The standard of living
was lower than in most of Eastern Europe, but the Soviet Union had
known far greater calamities without losing its grip. No key
parameter of economic performance prior to 1985 pointed to disaster.
The Soviet Union was at the height of its global power and
influence, both in its own view and in the view of the rest of the
world. The structural reasons for its collapse fail to explain how
it happened. Between 1985 and 1989, the state and its economic
system began to be seen as shameful, illegitimate, and intolerable.
A quest for self-respect and pride hollowed out the mighty
Soviet state. Deprived of its legitimacy, the USSR turned into a
shell that crumbled in August 1991. The tale of this intellectual
and moral journey is a central story of the last century.
AR The present USUK order could end
2016 December 21
The Trump Fact
Democracy lets people with different views
live together in harmony. An outburst of fear and anger is
disturbing because such primal emotions are hard to contain. In the
UK and the US in 2016, they came together in nationalism and
The more powerful the passions, the more likely
the democratic system will collapse into despotism. Demagogues claim
the tyranny of the majority as a mask on the tyranny of one. Trump
in charge of the USA is a devastating fact.
The Brexit Game
Thomas Schelling worked out how to prevent
nuclear war. He helped American policymakers see that they had to
make first use taboo and ensure they could always retaliate. With a
telephone hotline between the Kremlin and Washington, they could
then avoid nuclear war.
The ideas of Schelling and the game
theorists relate to the problems Britain now faces when negotiating
departure from the European Union. Brexit is a game involving many
players and a reasonable outcome is not assured. It could end in
conflict and failure.
1 We should know what an acceptable deal
2 We should flag any
absolute commitments clearly.
should go for a good outcome for both of us.
AR Rule 0 — rise above us versus them.
2016 December 20
On Bastille Day in Nice, a man drove a truck
into a crowd, killing 86. Last night in Berlin, a man drove a truck
into a crowd, killing 12. Germany has foiled many more terror
The German cocoon has burst. Germans will
soon accept intensified surveillance. The federal government has
decided to beef up data gathering and cyber warfare capabilities.
Angela Merkel's open-door policy on refugees will change. Last
year she flung open the doors on German borders. Some 800,000 people
from the Mideast and Africa swarmed in.
For Merkel, the open
door was a grand moral gesture and an act of historical atonement.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Controls are now
back with a vengeance.
Alternative für Deutschland will
campaign against Merkel in the 2017 general elections. She will want
to pose as a protector of domestic security. Germany is a terror
AR The terrorists
have split up Europe already.
One of the reasons the US won
the cold war was its skill at breaking China away from the Soviet
Union. When Nixon went to China in 1972 he cemented the Sino-Soviet
split and weakened Moscow. Nixon was a devout student of global
affairs who grasped the geopolitical chessboard.
to be known as the president who returns manufacturing jobs to the
US. He is using the threat to the One China policy as leverage to
wrest concessions from China. It will backfire.
AR If Trump ups arms to Taiwan, China
will be angry.
Brexit could be chaotic for trade and diplomatic
relations. A smooth divorce may
prove unattainable and instead become a train crash. The
reasons are procedural and political.
Procedurally, the negotiations are complicated. Britain and the EU
will try to unpick a 40-year relationship in 2 years. UK ambassador to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers says it
could take 10 years.
Politically, there is simmering ill will on both sides. The negotiating
process will reveal the immense gap between the assumptions of the two sides. Talks could break down irretrievably.
The EU estimate of British financial liabilities following
Brexit is that the UK will be facing a bill of up to €60 billion. That figure will
cause outrage in the UK. But the
EU will be able to justify it.
simply walk out and let the case go to the
International Court of Justice. Then it will be impossible to make any further progress on
Brexit. Opinion will harden on both sides.
happen after 2 years even with no deal.
The consequences could be dire. A senior British civil servant:
"It's going to be bloody, but we're just going to have to bash on
AR Expect a Trumped-up
nuclear holocaust first.
2016 December 19
Beijing and Washington understand that China
will return the captured underwater drone to the United States. The
two governments have shown responsibility in maintaining peace and
steals United States Navy research drone in international waters —
rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act."
2 "We should tell China that we don't want the
drone they stole back — let them keep it!"
Trump has no sense
of how to lead a superpower. Since he has not taken office, China
has kept a calm attitude toward his provocative remarks. But if he
treats China after assuming office in the same way as in his tweets,
China will not exercise restraint.
Reform Central Banks
World Bank chief economist Paul Romer
calls modern macroeconomics a racket.
The US and
German central banks were independent before 1990 but most other
central banks were not. Most people would probably not agree that
since army generals know best what is good for us, national armed
forces must be independent.
Defenders of the liberal order
should push to reclaim the central levers of economic policy. They
should distinguish the interests of the financial sector from those
of the economy. Failure to do so was one of the reasons for the
The case for reform is overwhelming.
Against Dark Matter
Erik Verlinde says gravity emerges from
qubit entanglement and dark matter reduces to dark energy. He sees
spacetime and matter as a hologram arising from an underlying
network of qubits and traces dark energy to a property of the
Years ago, modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND)
inventor Mordehai Milgrom conjectured that when the gravitational
field strength drops below precisely 0.12 pN/g,
gravity somehow switches from an inverse-square law to something
close to an inverse-distance law.
Verlinde gives a back story
for the MOND equations. He says spacetime is a geometric
representation of data stored in qubits. To do the work of dark
matter, he postulates a thermal energy associated with long-range
entanglement between the qubits.
This entanglement is
disrupted by matter, which interacts with dark energy to modify
gravity. The interaction increasingly dominates in larger volumes of
spacetime. Verlinde says it causes galaxy rotation curves to deviate
from the inverse-square law exactly as in MOND.
Analysis of galaxies strengthens his case. Researchers looked at 153
galaxies and compared the rotation speed of visible matter at a
given distance from each galactic center with the visible mass
within that galactic radius. The two variables were linked as in
MOND without dark matter.
Testing the new MOND on data from
more than 30,000 galaxies shows that Verlinde correctly predicts the
gravitational lensing of light from the galaxies — another claimed
effect of dark matter.
achievement for Verlinde would be to account for the claimed
imprints of dark matter in the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
Dark matter explains the observed CMB spectrum but the old MOND does
USAF B-52H leads a formation of
aircraft including two Polish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four
two Luftwaffe Eurofighter EF2000s and four
Swedish Air Force Gripens over the Baltic Sea for exercise
Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images
boss Sean Hoyle:
"Replace the capitalist system
with a socialist order ...
if we all spit
we can drown the
Jail Riot Chaos
No hot water for showers in
a UK jail is thought to
set off the worst prison
riot for a generation.
Panzerjäger Tiger (P)
at Southampton Docks on
its way to Bovington
2016 December 18
The New Sheriff
Donald Trump will reverse American policy toward
Russia and in the Mideast. He will ally with Vladimir Putin and
repair US ties with autocratic Sunni Arab regimes. His team promises
a "night and day" contrast with the outgoing administration.
Trump will usher in a "new era of American leadership" and launch a
new offensive against Daesh to show them there is a "new sheriff in
town" after eight years of weakness. Trump will order his generals
to deliver a plan within a month of his inauguration.
will woo Putin. He will ditch the nuclear deal with Iran and drive a
wedge between Russia and Iran. He will use US special forces to the
max. An officer: "All we need is the presidential authority and the
GPS coordinates and we can kill anyone in the world within 72
Trump: "Military, cyber and financial warfare will
all be essential in dismantling Islamic terrorism. But we must use
ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the cold war, in part,
by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets,
so too must we take on the ideology of radical Islam."
AR It might work. Worth a try anyway.
Worst that can happen is nuclear holocaust.
The New Britain
Britain is the most centralized country in the
Western world. Its local councils account for about a quarter of
government spending. Since 2010 their spending has been cut by over
a third, and is scheduled to fall much further by 2020.
after 2010, councils in England were encouraged to freeze council
tax. The tax is calculated on the basis of property values set in
1993 and not updated since. Councils are prohibited from running a
deficit and are obliged to balance the budget every year.
Councils have made big savings in roads and transport. Spending on
parks and culture has also fallen. Leisure centres, swimming pools,
playing grounds, public toilets, and libraries have been closed.
Since 2010, billions have been cut from social care budgets. The
services that remain are overstretched, and councils must make more
cuts this year, with yet more to come. By 2020, English councils
will be spending most of their income on social care.
Austerity destroys local government and marketizes nearly every
aspect of public policy. Local government will soon be forced to
outsource most of its responsibilities to the private sector.
A municipal nation has been destroyed.
AR Be Stoic: The rich will get richer, the jams (just about
managing) will go into forced servitude, and the rest will face
death with a smile.
The New Stoics
Philip Delves Broughton
Last week Donald Trump met the
new titans in Trump Tower. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple,
and Larry Page of Alphabet came along in suits and ties. They have
embraced Stoicism — accepting what they cannot change and managing
what they can.
Stoicism is the new Zen. Ryan Holiday has sold
nearly a quarter of a million copies of his book
The Obstacle Is the Way. Athletes, Hollywood celebrities, and
the venture capitalists and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley bought
the recycled philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.
The Stoics were
indifferent to pleasure and pain, wealth and poverty, fortified by
their distance from the emotions that trouble ordinary minds. When
they kissed their children goodnight, they imagined them dying, so
that if the worst were to happen they would be ready.
Aurelius faced war and death on the fringes of the Roman Empire. He
wrote that facing a fine meal, you should recall "this is the dead
body of a fish and this is the dead body of a bird or a pig".
James Stockdale was a US navy pilot who spent years in North
Vietnam as a prisoner of war. He had read Epictetus. He survived by
confronting the brutal facts of his situation. The men who went
under were the optimists: "They died of a broken heart."
Epictetus: "Men, the lecture room of the philosopher is a hospital;
students ought not to walk out of it in pleasure, but in pain."
AR Cue for my next book.
2016 December 17
British Tax Haven Gambit
Despite Brexit, Brits want a say in deciding
EU tax policy. They propose an HM Treasury candidate to chair the EU
working group that oversees tax competition between member states.
EU27 members resist his nomination because since the Brexit vote
Britain has blocked moves to outlaw tax havens such as Bermuda, the
Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.
AR Perfidious Albion — don't let it drag
German Armed Forces Update
Ursula von der Leyen
Since the election of the new US
president, it has become clear to Europeans that we have to take
matters that affect us into our own hands.
There is no
military solution in Syria, only a political one. If there were a
way to stop Assad by force without risking wider war, we would do
so. Assad is getting massive air and ground support from Russia and
Iran. Syria could set the world ablaze.
We have cut spending
on the German armed forces for too long and now we must modernize
them. We are approaching the NATO 2% goal in reasonable steps, but
modernization takes time. We shall include this goal in our election
The EU and Germany must do more in Mali. By
agreement with the UN, the German army will take over helicopter
rescue duties in northern Mali from Holland in spring 2017. The
Bundestag will vote in January on increasing our manpower there.
The military can only do so much. Civilian aid costs
money, but it is better than hosting African migrants here or
AR Brits who
would cut aid should see this too.
Anthony Sudbery, ed. AR
Determinism is the idea that if you know the present you can
predict the future. It worked for centuries. Then came quantum
theory defines a state vector from which you can derive predictions.
If you choose which physical quantities you want to measure, subject
to complementarity, the state vector gives you probabilities for the
Quantum mechanics gives us two answers
about the future. In the view from nowhere, the universe is
described by a universal state vector and its evolution is
deterministic. In the view from here and now, we occupy a particular
world and its evolution is probabilistic.
From here and now
there are many worlds, but one of them is singled out as actual. In
my future, no one world is singled out for me. I face a
superposition of future worlds.
Predictions do not have to be
either true or false. Let a true statement have truth value 1 and a
false one have truth value 0. The truth value of a prediction X is a
number between 0 and 1 giving the probability of X.
view from nowhere, there are many worlds with different
probabilities. My actual world is one of them, and it has
probability 1 for me. Possible worlds that are counterfactual relative to
my world have probability 0 for me.
The whole universal state vector
goes into the calculation of future probabilities. Counterfactual
events can still affect the future until they fall away by
decoherence. Even in a deterministic universe, our predictions are
AR This is just the Kripke semantics of an
with Bayesian probability.
Kremlin, Moscow, 2016-12-08 (Maxim
FBI Director James Comey and Director of National
Intelligence James Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA
that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help
Donald Trump win.
officials say Moscow is undermining the UK through espionage, misinformation,
and fake news.
Seen in Vilnius,
Cambridge University Library
by Isaac Newton: 1687 first
sold for $3.7 million
German defense minister
von der Leyen with Saudi
defense minister Mohammed
2015 Defense Budgets
United States $597.5 billion
Saudi Arabia $87.2 billion
Kingdom $56.2 billion
France $46.8 billion
NASA scientist Joseph Nuth
big asteroids and comets
on collision course with Earth
extremely rare but for us
any collision is an extinction
event. NASA has a new
planetary defense office and
an interceptor rocket
Clint and Tom did good.
Czego szukasz w Święta?
English for beginners
In hindsight, do you think
Britain was right or wrong
to vote to leave the EU?
2016 December 16
Royal Motor Yacht Club, Sandbanks
AR Robert Syms MP gave an interesting
speech on the United States and the federal ideal in Europe,
the British and German economies, and the opportunities and
challenges of Brexit.
Some choice picks:
● Vice-President: Mike Pence,
the Governor of Indiana, an evangelical Christian who opposes
abortion and denies the theory of evolution.
● Department of
State: Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, whose interests and wealth
are tangled in a web of global relationships, including a close
partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Steven Mnuchin, an investment banker who made billions off of the
● Department of Labor: Andrew Puzder, a
fast-food CEO who disdains the minimum wage and backs increased
automation in low-wage fields.
● Department of Education: Betsy
DeVos, a billionaire who evangelizes charter schools and private
● Department of Energy: Rick Perry, the former Texas
governor who infamously wants to dismantle the agency, when he can
remember its name.
● Health and Human Services: Tom Price, a
Georgia representative who opposes the Affordable Care Act and wants
deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
● Environmental Protection
Agency: Scott Pruitt, who describes himself as a "leading advocate"
against the agency.
● Department of Justice: Jeff Sessions, the
Alabama senator who opposes the Voting Rights Act and supports a
rollback of federal protection for LGBT victims of hate crimes.
Homeland Security: John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who
opposes closing the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.
Department of Defense: James Mattis, another retired Marine Corps
general, on record as saying: "If you fuck with me, I'll kill you
AR Amazing, Donald.
2016 December 15
In November 2016, at a Google office
in London, London mayor Sadiq Khan introduced Google chief executive
Sundar Pichai. The Google of the future, said Pichai, is in
Google Brain was founded in 2011 to
give artificial neural networks something like human flexibility.
This approach to AI can solve hard problems like speech recognition
and image recognition.
When Pichai spoke, Translate had just
been converted to an AI system. The new incarnation had been
completed in only nine months, yet showed huge overnight
Networks of simple artificial neurons can learn
the way we do. An artificial neural network can rewire itself to
reflect patterns in the data it absorbs. This approach to AI is
evolutionary rather than creationist.
Google Brain built an
artificial neural network comparable in complexity to a mouse brain.
They taught it to recognize cats. They showed it labeled pictures of
cats as inputs and rated its outputs, and let it wire itself to map
the inputs to the outputs.
The cat work made Brain famous.
Lead author Quoc Le then saw that if a network could handle a photo
it could also handle a sentence. His team developed an architecture
to accommodate complex structures that unfolded over time, like
language or music.
A new chip made the network faster.
Tensor processing units are deliberately imprecise: rather than
compute 12.24 x 54.39, they compute 12 x 54. A neural network is
formally a structured series of matrix multiplications carried out
in succession, and the process needs to be fast rather than exact.
In February 2016, Google convened its research leads at an
offsite retreat. The Translate update rolled out in November.
Good machine translation is likely to prove transformational. It
is a big step toward artificial general intelligence, AGI.
AR This reminds me so much of what we
used to do on a smaller scale at SAP.
2016 December 14
UK Bargaining Chips
A Lords committee says:
UK government ministers should provide an immediate
unilateral undertaking to protect the citizenship rights of EU
nationals living in the UK after Brexit.
Failure to do so would have severe consequences for EU
citizens in Britain, who would become subject to national
immigration laws of Byzantine complexity.
Giving Europeans a firm message on their future before the
end of Brexit negotiations is the only morally right action.
AR I am appalled and ashamed that the
government under which I live has not already and unconditionally
The Bundeswehr has 176,752 active military
personnel and 200 Leopard 2 tanks. The Luftwaffe has 109 Eurofighter
Typhoons and 89 Tornados. The German navy has just 10 frigates.
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen will spend an extra
$140 billion on equipment over the next 15 years. Germany spends
1.2% of GDP on defense, against a NATO target of 2%, and she is
raising this to 1.22% in 2017.
Low German defense spending
and limited capabilities are a hangover from WW2. Over the last 25
years, Germany has converged with France and the UK on the politics
of using military force. But even the Ukraine crisis has not changed
German hesitancy about the use of military force.
A half of
Germans think the defense budget should be increased. But Germans do
not want to arm against Russia, even if people in the Baltic states
and Poland do. Fear of being overwhelmed by refugees rather than
fear of Russia is prompting Germans to rethink their security policy.
AR Germany, France, and the UK need
to coordinate their defense policies much more closely — and as a
matter of the highest priority.
The Big Picture
— my review of a book by Sean Carroll
2016 December 13
Donald Trump has named Rex Tillerson,
chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil, as his secretary of state. Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in
2013. Tillerson will work with secretary of defense "Mad Dog" Mattis
(blog December 3) and national security adviser Michael Flynn, former director
of the DIA.
Russia expert and former secretary of defense
Robert Gates: "I strongly endorse the president-elect's selection of
Rex Tillerson to be the next secretary of state ... He is a person
of great integrity whose only goal in office would be to protect and
advance the interests of the United States."
Trump has tapped
billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for his commerce secretary and top
trade official, Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head the White
House national economic council, and Goldman alumnus Steven Mnuchin
as treasury secretary.
Business takes over US governance. This tends to confirm the
view of politics and business I aired in my book
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
Global corporations will win against national polities. Trump knows
this. Snobbish governing elites
will fail against brash hard
chargers from the corporate jungle, just as smug religious elites
failed against scientists.
The New York Times
A billion-dollar investment fund led
by Bill Gates and other technology titans will invest in
transformative energy R&D to reduce the emissions that cause climate
Breakthrough Energy Ventures will capitalize on
government-backed research through partnerships with the University
of California system and other institutions.
The fund has 20
investors and will last 15 to 20 years. It will cover investments in
electricity generation and storage, transportation, agriculture, and
energy system efficiency.
Aleppo steht kurz vor dem Fall, Bewohner in
den Rebellengebieten sind in höchster Not. Laut Rotem Kreuz ist die
humanitäre Situation katastrophal, die UNO ist alarmiert wegen
Berichten über Gräueltaten gegen Zivilisten.
The new Winton mathematics gallery at the
Science Museum in London reveals the richness of mathematics.
Maths is popular with A-level students in
British schools. As a STEM subject it provides a ticket into the
world of science and jobs. But the maths they learn will not equip
them with the right skills.
The machinery that powers
mathematics is crucial. Before modern computers, we did calculations
by hand, so we worked hard to avoid them at the expense of more
upfront deliberation in defining and abstracting the question. It
was a meticulous process.
The process of defining questions,
translating them into math, computing the answers, and interpreting
results, is computational thinking. Mathematics is all this, not
just pure calculation.
We need to focus on computational
thinking, the process that drives practical applications of
AR Years ago I
helped set up the
Deutsches Museum, München.
2016 December 12
Trump v China
US President-elect Donald Trump: "I fully
understand the One China policy, but I don't know why we have to be
bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having
to do with other things, including trade."
marveled at Trump's commercial thinking and naivety for diplomacy.
The One China policy has become a fundamental principle of international
order. Leaders all around the world, including US leaders,
If Trump gave up the One China policy,
supported Taiwan independence, and sold weapons to Taiwan, China
would have no grounds to partner with Washington on international
affairs and contain forces hostile to the US.
Trump is no
geopolitical maniac, but he is easily subject to the hawkish
advisers around him. We will learn more about how he interprets the
One China policy after he is sworn in. China needs to be fully armed
Trump v Government
Donald Trump has placed a climate change denier in charge of
environmental protection, an opponent of the minimum wage as labor
secretary, a conspiracy theorist in charge of the National Security
Council, and a protectionist at the commerce department. Now he is
considering a recipient of the Kremlin's Order of Friendship as
secretary of state.
Russia: Trump seems to want a rapprochement with Russia,
which is suffering under economic sanctions imposed after its
annexation of Crimea and intervened for him during the election,
exciting speculation about his relationship with Russia.
Europe: The French and German governments fear Trump may
support Marine Le Pen or the Alternative for Germany in elections
next year, but weakening NATO could undermine his presidency.
Iran: He could easily rip up the nuclear deal, but this
could put the US on the road to war.
Mideast: He advocates a much more ferocious approach to the
war on radical Islamic terrorism.
China: He signals a sharp rise in tensions with Beijing.
PEOTUS endorses expansion in the US Navy. He could split the
informal alliance between Russia and China and instead form a
Washington-Moscow axis. But his moves smacks more of chaotic
improvisation than strategic thinking.
Trump v World
PEOTUS Trump may damage EU chances of dealing
with its many challenges. EZ and Schengen states are no longer
sovereign in regard to currency or
borders, and Germany lacks military capability, but the EU has only
a shadow capability at supranational level.
The UK may have
to hold the line in Europe for years. Rearmament must begin now in
preparation for war against a major power in Europe. A grand bargain
with the EU might preserve free trade, restrict immigration, and
increase British commitment to European security through NATO.
London needs to read its neighbors the riot act on Russia.
Europeans have seen they cannot have a common currency or a common
travel area without a common state, and a European army without a
European state can only end in more tears. They need full political
PEOTUS must see that America has the biggest stake in the
success of NATO.
2016 December 11
In quantum mechanics, time is universal
and absolute. But in general relativity, time is relative and
dynamical. We need to reconcile their notions of time.
physicists now consider spacetime and gravity to be emergent
phenomena. Spacetime and matter emerge in a hologram from a network
of entangled qubits. Spacetime is a geometric representation of the
entanglement structure of the underlying quantum systems.
hologram arises in toy universes with anti-de Sitter (AdS)
spacetime. In their elliptical geometries, spacetime increments
shrink to nothing at a boundary. The boundary provides a surface for
the entangled qubits to project the hologram. The qubit states are
like steps in timeless code, giving rise to relativistic time in the
bulk of the AdS space.
In our universe, the fabric of
spacetime has a hyperbolic de Sitter geometry. The fabric stretches
out toward the end of time. At the end, in the heat death,
everything becomes causally disconnected, time breaks down, and
nothing more happens.
Researchers do not yet understand the
emergence of time from the entangled qubits on the timeless
2016 December 10
Science is under attack. Donald Trump
claimed that climate change was a Chinese conspiracy to undermine US
industrial competitiveness. Now he repeats an evasive little mantra
about having an open mind.
But this is like saying you have
an open mind about the shape of the Earth or about evolution. Anyone
with an open mind will agree there is a huge body of evidence
showing that human activities are affecting global climate. Yet
Trump will stop funding for the
NASA Earth Science division.
NASA climate research and
monitoring is essential and respected worldwide.
NASA GISS is
one of the leading centers for studies of global climate change. An
Atlantic Council report in March identified climate change as a
threat to US national security.
The Trump plans for more
astronaut space missions are not a shifting of NASA priorities but a
concerted attack on science. There is no compelling scientific or
economic argument to put all NASA resources into space missions.
Space research is a luxury, Earth observations are essential.
Trump advisor Bob Walker says environmental monitoring is
politically correct and climate science is heavily politicized. This
is science denial. NASA should not accept such blatant political
2016 December 9
EU Nuclear Defense
Donald Trump said NATO is obsolete. He mooted
pulling back the US nuclear shield from Japan and South Korea and
suggested they develop their own nuclear weapons. If Trump seriously
questions US nuclear guarantees, Europe will be vulnerable to
possible threats from Russia.
In that case, Berlin would
consider establishing a European nuclear deterrent. NATO military
officers and diplomats are addressing the issue of a French-British
nuclear shield for Europe. Britain and France have only around 450
nuclear warheads, but their second-strike capability is strong
enough to defend Europe.
Politically, the issue is trickier.
France views its nuclear capability as a national asset and Britain
is facing Brexit. Europeans would be forced to depend on Paris and
London for their security. After Brexit, Germans might rather fund
an EU nuclear arsenal under French leadership.
AR I discussed a Franco-British EU
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
National prejudices and technical interoperability are big
obstacles. But I say do it.
Russia v NATO
General Sir Richard
Shirreff offers a scenario: 2017 begins with a new Russian invasion
of Ukraine. The Russian army sweeps westward into eastern Ukraine up
to Crimea. This conquest of half of Ukraine takes Russia three days.
NATO fails to respond.
With that done, Russia moves against
the Baltic states. Russian special forces engineer chaos during a
demonstration in the Latvian capital Riga, which creates a pretext
for a Russian invasion that is over in hours. Similar moves take
Estonia and Lithuania.
NATO ambassadors meeting in Belgium
fail to agree on action. Russian planes sink two navy ships, one
German and one British. A reluctant Germany accepts that Russia and
NATO are at war. The Shirreff scenario is a wake-up call to NATO.
AR See blog October 22.
Dictatorship of the People
Brexiteers will implement the result of the
EU referendum. But the view that the executive must do so is a form
of authoritarianism. The government becomes a dictatorship that
rules in the name of the people.
AR Wolf wäre Volksverräter!
2016 December 8
Queen Elizabeth I stood up for Britain. She
had a very clear vision about what she wanted to do.
I think everybody has their own style as to how they do
business. I just get on and do the job. What was important in
forming the team was unity.
I've got a team around me, some
of them people I've worked with before, some of them I've not worked
with before. I've reinstated cabinet subcommittees. There's a much
more open and free discussion among cabinet colleagues on different
I don't take all the decisions. Everybody
thinks that suddenly everything is coming to me as prime minister.
But there are some crucial decisions that obviously I take.
It's not a question of whether people have earned trust, but of where it's appropriate for different decisions to be
Whatever side anybody was on in the referendum vote,
we've all now got to come together and deliver for the public. It's
important that we don't leave it for too long, otherwise people will
lose faith in their politicians. They'll think that we're trying to
pull the wool over their eyes.
I want to see as smooth and
orderly a process as possible. Of course, it's going to be complex
because there's a lot to deal with. You're not a member of something
for 40-odd years and then it's easy.
I think it's important
for us to build up the relationship with the people we're
negotiating with. There are 27 member states which will be
negotiating. They don't want to see others looking to break away and
to vote to leave in the way the UK has done.
We are seeking a bespoke outcome on terms of
trading with and operating within the European market. We are
seeking tariff-free, barrier-free access. We have to judge what is
best for Britain, in terms of its access both to the European
market and to the rest of the world.
Our strategy is to bring
back the control of migration to the UK government and parliament.
That will be exercised in the national interest. We would expect to
see pretty free movement of highly talented labour, and not to cause
AR Selfish UK
U.S. Pacific Command
carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), right, with Japan
Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)
ships JS Izumo (DDH 183),
center, and JS Kurama (DDH 144), Philippine Sea, November 11, 2016
75 years ago today:
on Pearl Harbor
ein Recht auf Schadenersatz
AR My writing career
I2 Am Globorg
I1 think this slogan makes
Globorg idea ring better.
I1 is human, I2 is planetary.
So read I1 as "I for one"
as "I too".
Too Dumb To Know It
The Dunning—Kruger effect
is a cognitive
bias in which
low-ability individuals suffer
mistakenly assessing their
ability as much higher than
it really is. Dunning: "If you're
incompetent, you can't know
incompetent ... the
skills you need to produce a
right answer are
skills you need to recognize
what a right answer is."
Donald J. Trump announced
his selection of retired USMC
James N. Mattis to be
next US secretary of defense:
"The closest thing we have
General George Patton."
2016 December 7
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is one of the top
five navies in the world.
Japan Security Watch
blog editor and US Naval Institute News contributor Kyle Mizokami:
"The United States and Japan are the two closest military powers in
the world today. They're even closer than the US and UK. They train
together on a daily basis, and there are major military exercises in
air, land, and sea on almost a weekly basis."
The United States and Britain are hubs of
globalized turbo-capitalism and finance. For at least a decade,
fears and resentments had been building over the elites and the
downsides of modern life. So the British voted to quit the European
Union and Americans voted for Donald Trump.
are in the midst of an upheaval. Virtual direct democracy through
social media has outflanked representative democracy. The major
political parties in Britain and the United States will have to
prove their relevance again.
Democracies have not been
delivering. A way is needed to restore faith in our societies.
Germany, with its balance of capitalism and solidarity, its respect
for the labor force, and its commitment to education and training,
offers a model.
AR I discussed
virtual direct democracy in chapter 1111 of
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
The overthrow of Matteo Renzi is
the latest revolt against the new managerial elites. The Italian
people knew very well that Brussels was backing Renzi. And they know
the Five Star Movement, which wants a referendum on the euro, is
likely to be a beneficiary of the turmoil.
So the people of
Italy join the people of Britain in rejecting the bureaucrats.
Brexiteers were inspired by the early revolts of the Dutch and
French and by the fighting Irish. In turn, we Brits, French, Dutch,
Italian, and Irish have emboldened Eurosceptics elsewhere.
Some revolts will go in a good direction, others in a dodgy one. But
what binds them together is hope that politics can be reclaimed from
the committee rooms of the technocrats and brought crashing back
down to the rowdy, wonderful court of public opinion.
AR Be careful what you wish for.
2016 December 6
Eine Situation wie die des
Sommers 2015 kann, soll und darf sich nicht wiederholen. Das war und
ist unser und mein erklärtes politisches Ziel. Nicht alle der
890.000 Menschen, die gekommen sind, können und werden bleiben.
Hier bei uns in Deutschland gelten die Gesetze unseres Landes.
Und zwar für jeden und jede in gleicher Art und Weise. Unser Recht
hat Vorrang vor Stammesregeln, vor Ehrenkodexe und der Scharia. Bei
uns heißt es: Gesicht zeigen, deswegen ist die Vollverschleierung
nicht angebracht, sie sollte verboten sein.
es nur dann gut, wenn es auch Europa gut geht. Wir müssen in dieser
Lage, in der die Welt aus den Fugen geraten ist, zunächst alles
daran setzen, dass Europa nicht noch schwächer aus den Krisen
hervorgeht, als es hineingegangen ist. Unsere Zukunft hängt einzig
und allein von unserer Stärke ab und die haben wir selbst in der
AR Letzter Absatz gilt auch
UK Lost Decade
It doesn't feel like the good old days in the UK. Anxiety about the future
has increased, productivity hasn't recovered, and real wages are
below where they were a decade ago. No one alive today has
experienced this before.
Monetary policy has been highly
effective. The data do not support the idea that the period of low
rates has benefited the wealthiest at the expense of the least
wealthy. All monetary policy has distributional effects, but it is
rightly the role of elected governments to take measures to offset
them if they so choose.
Politicians need to foster a
globalization that works for all. Redistribution and fairness also
means turning back the tide of stateless corporations. Companies
must be rooted and pay tax somewhere.
Nation states like the UK must learn to live with their
neighbors before they can hope to put up an effective common front
against global corporations.
The New York Times
The Breakthrough Foundation handed out
more than $25 million in annual prizes.
A special $3 million
prize went to the LIGO experiment that detected gravitational waves
from colliding black holes. The money will be split among Ronald
Drever, Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss, and the other 1,012 scientists on
The regular Breakthrough physics prize went to
string theorists Andrew Strominger, Cumrun Vafa, and Joseph
Polchinski. Strominger and Vafa used string theory to compute the
entropy of a black hole and Polchinski generalized string theory to
The Breakthrough mathematics prize went to Jean
Bourgain for work including a decoupling theorem generalizing the
Pythagorean theorem to the superposition of waves.
science prizes went to:
Stephen Elledge for exploring how cells sense and respond to damage
in their DNA and for insights into the development and treatment of
● Harry Noller for
helping to unravel the structure of ribosomes and the role of RNA
● Roeland Nusse for
work on a gene that plays a crucial role in the development of
embryos, stem cells, bone growth, and the progression of cancer;
Huda Zoghbi for work on the genes behind the neurodegenerative
disorders Spinocerebellar ataxia and Rett syndrome;
Yoshinori Ohsumi for work on how cells recycle themselves that could
help us better understand the process of aging.
AR Glad the gravity wave work was
2016 December 5
Guts and Democracy
In Italy, prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned after losing his
referendum on constitutional reform. Opposition leader Beppe Grillo
had urged Italians to vote with their guts, not their brains.
Analysts fear a run on Italian banks and a plunge in the euro.
The stability of the European Union is endangered. Italy will
probably join France, the Netherlands, and Germany in holding
elections next year, with the populists on the march.
AR Populism is a force the EU must learn
to live with. The public image of the EU in the UK is far below what
it needs to be to gain any popular traction. No wonder so many Brits
want to leave it.
Violence and Death
Violence is always a failure of articulacy.
When I create a monster character, the covers of the book are like
the bars of a cage. You can look at this monster and admire its
severity and horror, but it doesn't mean you secretly want violence.
History is accelerating and the novel has responded to that. The
narrative has to be much stronger than it used to be. Novelists are
modern people too, and they felt this acceleration of history. You
write the novels you want to read, and as I get older I write about
I'm writing an autobiographical novel about three
other writers — a poet, a novelist and an essayist — Philip Larkin,
Saul Bellow, and Christopher Hitchens. Larkin died in 1985, Bellow
died in 2005, and Hitch died in 2011, and that gives me a theme,
Words, words, words — they all died
— the end.
2016 December 4
I warned before the Brexit vote that it
would damage scientific research in Britain, that a vote to leave
would be a step backward. What matters now is how the elites react.
To reject the vote as an outpouring of crude populism would be a
The concerns about globalization and
technological change are understandable. The automation of factories
and the rise of artificial intelligence will accelerate the widening
economic inequality around the world. Many people are searching for
a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.
With the global spread of the internet and social media,
economic inequalities are far more apparent than in the past. The
lives of the richest people in the world are visible to anyone, so
the rural poor join the economic migrants in search of a better
life. These migrants undermine tolerance and fuel political
Now, more than at any time in our history, our
species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental
challenges. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on
which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it,
so we need to work together to protect it.
We need to break
down barriers within and between nations. Our leaders need to
acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With
resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are
going to have to learn to share far more than at present.
must help people to retrain for a new world and support them
financially while they do so. If communities cannot cope with
current levels of migration, we must encourage global development.
This will require the elites to learn humility.
2016 December 3
Ivanka Trump, Climate Czar?
Ivanka, 35, Trump's avatar among the moneyed
left-wing elite, is poised to play a larger public role than the
first lady. She is positioning herself as a bridge to moderates and
liberals disgusted and depressed with the tone and tenor of the new
leader of the free world.
The ambitious daughter who once
plotted her career around international brand domination is
apparently planning to make climate change one of her signature
AR If so, good news.
Mad Dog Mattis
US Marine Corps General James N. Mattis
commanded a division in the invasion of Iraq and fought in
Afghanistan. Also known as the Warrior Monk, he took the book
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius into battle. His philosophy of
● The first time you blow someone away is not an
● That said, there are some assholes in the
world that just need to be shot.
● It's fun to shoot some people.
There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It's really
● I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck
with me, I'll kill you all.
● Engage your brain before you engage
● The most important six inches on the battlefield is
between your ears.
● Marines don't know how to spell the word
● Wherever the enemy wants to fight, we will follow him to
the ends of the Earth.
AR Any friend of Marcus Aurelius is a
friend of mine.
2016 December 2
Richmond Park Surprise
Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney won the
by-election in Richmond Park. She gained a majority of 1,872, just
under 50% of the vote, to unseat former Conservative MP Zac
Goldsmith, who had won a 23,000 majority in 2015. The vote was a de
facto plebiscite on Brexit — Lib Dems said the strongly pro-remain
constituency should have an MP who opposed hard Brexit.
Olney: "Richmond Park was full of people like me, who felt the
country was going wrong, that the politics of anger and division
were on the rise, that the liberal, tolerant values we took for
granted were under threat."
The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins published his bestseller
Selfish Gene in 1976.
The book explored a new way of looking
at evolution. Bill Hamilton had argued that the reason people devote
themselves to raising their children was because this furthered the
survival of their genes. Dawkins saw that natural selection is not
mainly choosing among species, or groups, or even individuals, all
of which are transient aggregations, but among genes.
Dawkins: "Genes are in a sense immortal. They pass through the
generations, reshuffling themselves each time they pass from parent
to offspring ... Our basic expectation on the basis of the orthodox
neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is that genes will be 'selfish'."
Daniel Dennett: "Many laypeople and even some biologists may
fail to appreciate how bountiful this shift of attention has been."
AR Good book. The idea played a
central role in the argument of my book
2016 December 1
The German Challenge
The European Union is teetering:
Italy Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is likely to lose
a referendum on constitutional reform.
Freedom Party (FPÖ) presidential candidate Norbert Höfer looks set
to be elected.
— Holland Party for Freedom (PVV)
leader Geert Wilders calls for a European patriotic spring.
France Front National presidential candidate Marine
Le Pen looks set to do well next spring.
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is making waves ahead of elections
Germany may have to lead alone on Brexit, Russia,
Turkey, migrants, the EZ crisis, and dealing with US president
UK Needs Written Constitution
The sovereignty of parliament is key to
UK political arrangements. By making the will of the people
sovereign, the Brexit referendum is constitutional dynamite for
those arrangements. A written constitution is now essential to:
1 Establish a separation of powers
between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary
2 Define the political powers and rights
3 Express the aspirations
of UK society
AR Hear hear
Alt-Right's Jewish Godfather
The night America elected Donald Trump
president, Richard Spencer crowed: "We're the establishment now."
His former mentor Paul Gottfried is a retired Jewish academic who
studied at Yale under Herbert Marcuse.
Gottfried is a Nietzschean American nationalist. In his view, there
are inherent differences between races, genders, religions, and
nations, so equality is unnatural and is imposed by a class of
managers who enforce multiculturalism and political correctness.
Gottfried distinguishes social Darwinism from the corrupted version
exploited by the Nazis and says Hitler was not a fascist but a
far-right counter-revolutionary response to Stalin.
Spencer created the website
Alternative Right in 2010. Spencer: "American society today is
so — pardon my French — fucking middle class in its values. There is
no value higher than having a pension and dying in bed. I find that
profoundly pathetic. So, yeah, I think we might need a little more
chaos in our politics, we might need a bit of that fascist spirit in
AR More chaos
Allied (starring Brad Pitt and
Marion Cotillard) is a good WW2 romantic thriller about the
ambiguities of national identity.
It features excellently
reconstructed settings and scenes that really catch the feel of
But the action scenes are formulaic and Brad seems
rather wooden as a loving husband.
I love what they have built here.
admire the invisible scaffolding
in their society that preserves
calm amid the chaos.
We may believe we live in a
sophisticated society enjoying
more freedom than at any
time in history.
But I have come to understand
giving his people
freedom from all that might
be a greater
Pap snap of aide's scribbled
notes reveals Brexit plan:
cake and eat it"
(and beware French)
"The tree which moves some
to tears of joy is in the eyes
others only a green thing
which stands in the way."
French former prime minister
François Fillon, 62, Republican
presidential election candidate
"The right can be reassured:
with Fillon they are
Donald Trump built a wall on
the border of his golf
Scotland, blocking the sea view
of local residents
to sell their homes, then he
sent them the bill.
And what rough beast,
its hour come
round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem
to be born?
W. B. Yeats
2016 November 30
The End of the AA Order
Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have more in
common than distaste for international or supranational
institutions. Farage fulminated against the banks, the liberal
media, and the political establishment. Trump deliberately tapped
into the same animus against those elitist traitors within America
who supposedly coddle minorities and despise the real people.
In the war years, the Anglo-American allies were the last hope
of freedom, democracy, and internationalism. NATO and the ideal of
European unification were born from the ashes of 1945. Decades
later, conservatives regarded the Reagan-Thatcher revolution as
a triumph for freedom.
The notion that the United States is
the greatest nation in the history of man and that Great Britain is
superior to any European country soon faded. Not only have the
fortunes of most people in Britain dwindled compared with those of
the rich, but it gradually became clear that they were doing worse
than the Germans and many other EU citizens. The blight of the old
industrial cities and mining towns was not a result of EU policies.
The last hope of the West might be Germany. Angela Merkel told
Trump she would welcome a close
cooperation with the United States, but only on the basis of
democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man,
independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual
orientation, or political views. She spoke as the true heiress of
the Atlantic Charter.
Downfall: first USSR, then USUK, perhaps?
2016 November 29
A planned European Defense Fund will
offset US pressure for NATO allies to increase military spending.
The plan would increase cross-border defense procurement and
standardization of equipment, and add EU space programs for security
and defense. At present about 80% of European defense procurement is
run on a national basis.
The NATO target for defense
expenditure is 2% of GDP. Of the 22 EU member states in NATO, only
the UK, Estonia, Poland, and Greece meet the threshold. The new plan
from the EU executive aims to increase European land, air, sea, and
space capabilities, plus those in cyber security and intelligence
France and Germany have led the charge for deeper
defense coordination, backed by Italy and Spain. The new plan aims
to to deliver a better return from rising defense expenditures.
Member states would still own all military assets and technology,
but would pool national resources to raise the benefit and efficiency of
EU member states have the second-largest
military expenditure in the world — the US spends more than twice as
much. But EU spending inefficiencies add costs of €25 billion to
€100 billion per year. With a total annual spend of €100 billion,
the EU defense industry could fall behind without sustained
A great oak canopy provides a home for an
astonishing number of small insects, birds, animals, lichens, ferns,
and fungi. The tree is the head, heart, and habitat of an entire
civilization. A great oak can survive for between six hundred and a
Many of the common trees in Europe and North
America are facing an apocalyptic threat from Asia. Fifty years ago
we lost most of our elm trees to a fungus from China. Today these
new enemies are decimating our parks and forests.
plague is leading to the death of leaves and branches in ash trees.
A green Chinese beetle has devastated many ash forests in
North America. Half of the horse chestnut trees in Europe are
believed to be infected by bleeding canker, a bacterial infection
that slowly kills the tree.
There is a way to recreate the
lost trees. Make sure to choose a Chinese or Japanese or Indian
species of the same genus. These Asian species evolved side by side
with the Asian diseases and are immune to them.
A wood wide
web lets trees communicate. In a forest, an underground network of
fungi connects trees of different species by passing chemical and
electrical signals among the roots. Tree leaves are solar panels
that use photosynthesis to fix carbon, the food of trees, and trees
can exchange carbon through their roots.
Trees can exchange
food and vital information. In their own way, trees have feelings,
they communicate with one another, and the strong can assist the
weak. Trees live in harmony with their neighbors and with their
AR Recall the Pandora
trees in Avatar.
2016 November 28
Hard Brexit would be a disaster, a bonanza time
for lawyers and emergency sessions of parliament. A huge part of the
British statute book would collapse, leaving massive uncertainty for
It is difficult when the people have just
spoken for us to say: "OK people you voted, you got it wrong, we are
not going to pay any attention." It is impossible in the House of
How do we look from across the channel at moment? We
look incoherent. They cannot believe there was not a plan and five
months on there is still no plan. They note the xenophobia, the
attacks on foreigners, the sense that the climate in Britain is
Theresa May's absolute rejection of any role for
the European Court of Justice in Britain was the most damaging step.
Most people in Brussels think that rules out anything but a hard
We are not top of the agenda for many people in
Europe. We need to take account of things that concern them and not
to advance our arguments in terms of British exceptionalism.
AR The British front in the European
civil war is an utter shambles.
Top Whitehall mandarin Sir Jeremy
Heywood: "What is our leverage?"
London is facing an EU that is economically fragile, worried about
security, under populist assault, and divided over a crisis of
2 Brussels sees the
UK as smaller than the EU, with more to lose, negotiating against a
deadline controlled by the EU-27.
Brexit blows a hole in the EU budget and will be costly for some
4 The EU is worried
about Brexit leaving outstanding liabilities of some €50 billion.
5 Defence and security is a UK
6 The UK confronts
the EU with a choice — continue a zero-tariff preferential trade
arrangement or accept WTO terms — confident in the EU trade surplus
with the UK and the economic pain from unwinding deep cross-border
supply chains in industry.
UK unbound can threaten tax and regulatory dumping — European
capitals can be undercut.
City of London is the main EU financial hub — a hard exit raises
costs for corporate Europe.
rights of more than 2.5 million EU nationals in the UK are a
priority for EU states — but they can threaten retribution on 1.2
million UK nationals resident in the EU.
10 The EU must speak as one on EU
issues, but it can speak as 27 on areas of national competence, so
crafty British diplomacy can chip away at EU unity.
like hard Brexit or unconditional surrender.
2016 November 27
Fight Brexit or Face Ruin
Brexit is pure poison, polluting everything it touches. The
fundamental questions the country should be addressing — the crisis
in productivity growth, the lack of affordable housing, the
overwhelming strain on public services, our desperately weak export
sector — are all sidelined. There is not the bandwith or capacity to
address them against the gigantic question of how to weather the
greatest shock to our economy and society since 1945.
AR The UK parliament is grossly
overburdened — so abandon Brexit, keep on delegating the boring
stuff to Brussels, and go back to business as usual. Purge the
Brexiteers, muzzle the gutter press, and use force to put down riots. Rulers dare not
appease the mob — that way lies mob rule.
Yuval Noah Harari
Humans have two kinds of abilities,
physical and cognitive. What you saw over the last century or two is
a migration of people from jobs that require mainly physical
abilities, like agriculture and heavy industry, to jobs that require
mainly cognitive abilities. Now we are seeing that the machines are
starting to compete with us, and outperform us, in cognitive
One of my main fears is that Homo sapiens are
simply not up to the task. Censorship no longer works by hiding
information from you. It works by flooding you with immense amounts
of misinformation, of irrelevant information, of funny cat videos,
until you are unable to focus.
I am very much aware that
change becomes more and more scary. Previously everyone who knew who
you were and what you did and what you thought were your intimate
community. Today, Apple and Amazon and WikiLeaks are not your
AR These are
fragments of a conversation between Harari and former UK Chancellor
of the Exchequer George Osborne.
My recent review of books by
2016 November 26
American World Leadership
At the turn of the century it seemed America
had achieved pole position in the global order. Americans appeared
poised to exercise an unchallenged, benevolent global leadership.
But in three key parts of the world America has faced serious
Mideast — Terrorists contest regional incorporation into a
global order whose ideology and culture they reject. In Iraq and
Afghanistan, American attempts to create new states that would bring
their peoples to order have failed. The state system in parts of the
region has collapsed.
Eastern Europe — Russian president Vladimir Putin seeks to
reassert a Russian sphere of influence. His use of armed force and
political subversion revives memories of the Cold War. America has
no effective response when the clashes are not big enough for
— China aims to create a new regional order. It has the strategic
weight and national resolve to mount and sustain this challenge. As
a nuclear power China can devastate American cities, which means it
can deter America from using its nuclear forces in a Pacific war.
For some years now, America has failed to achieve most of its
objectives in pursuit of its vision of global leadership. The
foreign policy establishment has underestimated the strength and
resolve of key regional rivals. It needs to rethink the vision.
Retain EU Citizenship
British citizens who want to live and work in Europe after
Brexit could pay an annual fee for individual EU citizenship.
European Parliament lead Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt: "I
like the idea that people who are European citizens and saying they
want to keep it have the possibility of doing so."
MEP Charles Goerens proposed the idea: "Between 15 and 30 million
British citizens deeply regret Brexit. My amendment was tabled in
order to get European citizenship for those British citizens who
want to keep their citizenship. If it is adopted, it must be a
voluntary request made by each UK citizen. It was thought at the
very beginning that they should have to pay a fee but that is a
detail. Paying a fee or not is not the essence."
AR I like it — count me in.
2016 November 25
"The people have spoken"
We are the 17.4 million people who voted
for Brexit. In the United States, 60 million people voted for Trump.
But as Americans will discover and Brits are already learning, the
system is a lie.
Project Fear has returned via the back door.
Philip Hammond is predicting Armageddon over Brexit. The Office of
Budget Responsibility is as pessimistic as a cancer victim at a
funeral. Tony Blair is saying: "If you offer the people soft Brexit,
they may realise there is no point leaving at all."
all sick of not being heard. Something darker is now lurking in our
hearts. This is a pressure cooker whose lid is being screwed tighter
while the temperature rises. This is an angry animal, forced into a
cage and tormented, determined to find itself free.
AR Not just hysterical garbage but the
canary in the mine.
2016 November 24
Raa-Raa at the Ritz
Farage allies, including the Barclay
brothers, who own the Ritz and the Telegraph newspaper, and Arron
Banks, who spent £7.5 million on the Leave.EU campaign, threw a
reception at the Ritz to celebrate UKIP interim leader Nigel Farage.
Over English sparkling wine supplied from Lord Ashcroft's
Gusbourne winery in Kent and canapes of coronation chicken and roast
beef, shambassador Farage was toasted by a crowd including
pro-Brexit Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.
UK Ambassador to US
When asked, Jacob Rees-Mogg said he
was not sure that Nigel Farage should be Her Britannic Majesty's
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States
(the title adopted since
1893): "Mr Farage is certainly extraordinary in his own way but
I think that being plenipotentiary as well may be a bit too much."
US Ambassador to UK
The United States Government
Ambassador, or Chief of Mission, is the highest ranking American
official in the United Kingdom. The position's title is "Ambassador
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary" — extraordinary in that the
ambassador is the personal representative of the President of the United States to Her Majesty the Queen
and plenipotentiary indicating full power to negotiate.
AR Either way, Ambassador Frump — no
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says that the vote to
leave the EU means the UK economy will grow less and the government
will have to borrow more.
OBR forecasts are slightly less
gloomy than those of the Bank of England, more optimistic than
independent forecasters, and considerably less gloomy than those of
the Treasury during the referendum campaign.
for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says workers will earn less in real wages
in 2021 than they did in 2008.
A Grim Picture
The rest of this parliament looks
set to see the return of the income squeeze we thought we had left
behind in the last parliament. Households look set to see income
growth averaging less than half the already very weak increases
recorded between 2010 and 2015. The biggest losers are lower income
families, with the entire bottom third set to see incomes fall.
"Everybody, whatever their political persuasion or indeed view
on Brexit, will agree that the return of an income squeeze on this
scale is hugely unwelcome."
Brexit Can Be Stopped
Brexit can be stopped if the British people
decide against it:
— Either you get maximum access to the
single market and accept the rules on immigration, on payment into
the budget, on EU legal jurisdiction, and people ask why we are
— Or you are out of the single market and the
economic pain may be very great because you have years of economic
living within our means — abandon Brexit.
The Prophet of
My review of
and Homo Deus
PDF (10 pages)
UK PM Theresa
May will slash
corporation tax to win back
is too small,
AR Run up
spend on arms,
Buckingham Palace is the
residence of the Queen:
The UK government will pay for
refit with £369 million of
AR Demolish it and build the
Houses of Parliament
on the site. Let the Queen
live in Windsor
Donald Trump put his fingers
grievance of our time,
the disintegration of the
This is the
real story of 2016.
Japanese prime minister
Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump
at Trump Tower: Abe said
they had got off to an
The special relationship:
German chancellor Angela Merkel
and US president Barack Obama
dining at Hotel Adlon, Berlin
NASA GISS: October 2016 was
the 2nd warmest in 136 years,
0.18 K cooler than October
60 years old this week.
AR And I have read it
for 50 of them.
The ultimate flying bike:
up to an hour at 30 m
high at 100
AR Boy toy
2016 November 23
Brexit Black Hole
The UK will be forced to borrow an extra £58.7
billion over the next 5 years because of an economic slowdown
triggered by its vote to leave the EU, according to the
Growth will be 1.4% next year, down from 2.2% predicted in March,
and the weakest growth since 2009.
UK treasury chief Philip
Hammond said growth would suffer because of greater uncertainty and
higher inflation resulting from the drop in the value of the pound.
Investment and consumer demand are also expected to weaken.
Potential growth over the next 5 years will be 2.4% lower than if
voters had chosen to remain in the EU.
The UK is to borrow another £122 billion over the next 5 years.
UK chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond admitted today as the
Brexit bill fell due. About half the extra debt is needed to plug a
hole blown in the public finances by the uncertainty caused by the
vote to leave the EU.
AR With UK
GDP at about £1.9 trillion, the lower growth represents a loss of
some £45 billion. Factor in the inflation and loss of real income
caused by the nominal drop of over £200 billion in the value of the
pound, and Brexit is costing more like £100 billion. This is too
high a price to pay for any of the stated benefits, independently of
the manifest political and goodwill losses.
The UK prime
minister can claw back this loss overnight with a single executive
UK Trump Card
The game of Brexit poker has become more
complicated. Many in the EU are concerned that the UK could
increasingly turn to the US instead of keeping their economy as open
as possible. If Trump moves ahead with protectionism, German
companies and others in the EU will have to worry about their
exports to the US as well as to the UK.
The US election has
further deepened the rift between the EU and the UK. Previous
differences are becoming more distinct. The UK and the EU are
heading toward a hard Brexit.
Brexit Britain might manage as a US colony under Farage and Trump —
a Frump state!
We have a great country and we're a great,
great people. I want to move forward.
On climate change, I
have a very open mind. And I'm going to look at it very carefully.
Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is
vitally important. Safety is vitally important. It depends on how
much. It also depends on how much it's going to cost our companies.
We have to make ourselves competitive.
The wind is a very
deceiving thing. We don't make the windmills in the United States.
They're made in Germany and Japan. They're made out of massive
amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it's in
our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere. We're subsidizing
wind mills all over this country. For the most part they don't work.
But it's hard to explain.
I've known Steve Bannon a long
time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, I wouldn't even
think about hiring him. Steve went to Harvard, he was a Naval
officer, I think he was with Goldman Sachs. Breitbart is just a
publication. If I thought that he was doing anything, I would ask him
very politely to leave.
They call it the Rust Belt for a
reason. To me more important is taking care of the people that
really have proven to love Donald Trump, as opposed to the political
people. These people are really angry. I call them the forgotten men
Right now we don't make the robots. We don't make
anything. But robotics is becoming very big and we're going to do
that. We're going to have more factories. We're going to start
We're going for a very large tax cut for
corporations. We have to get rid of regulations, regulations
are making it impossible. Taxes, regulations, health care — we're
going to talk repeal and replace. Infrastructure is going to be a
part of it — a very large-scale infrastructure bill.
think we should be a nation builder. I think going into Iraq was one
of the great mistakes in the history of our country. I have some
very strong ideas on Syria. I spoke to Putin. I would love to be
able to get along with Russia and I think they'd like to be able to
get along with us.
Israeli businesspeople tell me it's
impossible but, I think you can make peace. I think people are tired
now of being shot, killed.
General Mattis is is being
considered for secretary of defense. He said, "I've always found,
give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better
with that than I do with torture."
I hope we can all get
AR So do we all.
2016 November 22
Swedish opposition Moderate party defence
spokesman Hans Wallmark suggests Sweden should join NATO instead of
depending on its defense agreement with the US: "Now we have to rely
on a person that is very tricky to read. The arguments for Swedish
membership are therefore even higher today. It's better that we seek
the strength in cooperating with 28 countries rather just one
Finnish former prime minister Alex Stubb says Donald
Trump could do a deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop
NATO enlargement: "This would leave a security political vacuum in
northern Europe, especially Finland and Sweden."
AR Sweden and Finland should join NATO
French Republican front runner François Fillon thinks the
West treats Russia badly. He wants to forge an alliance with Moscow
to fight terrorism and create a new balance in Europe.
AR Fillon could trump Le Pen and
rebalance EU-Russian relations.
Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau:
"We're not talking as much about Brexit as you are in the UK ...
From our perspective, clearly the NAFTA relationship is of huge
importance. That's our biggest relationship by a very big margin, so
that's important to us. And then the CETA relationship opens up a
very significant market. Our opening of exploratory talks with
China ... we do see as important and as the UK figures its next
steps, that will be important too."
Bang goes Commonwealth resurrection, with its smell of
Mass Democracy Has Failed
The election of Donald Trump confirms that
the politics of mass democracy has failed. Theatrical politics
delivers people into the hands of populist adventurers. Instead of
the chilling talk about the people and its supposed will, we need to
ask how politics can be set free from the deadly polarity between
empty theatrics and a corrupt plutocracy.
AR A correct sentiment, in my humble
2016 November 21
Denmark v UK
Anglophile former head of the Danish
foreign service and PM office Ulrik Federspiel: "Britain is a
country close to our hearts. There is still a lot of goodwill. But
our main concern is that we should not give away advantages of
competitiveness to Britain or British companies ... We cannot afford
to give British companies the upper hand."
minister Kristian Jensen: "We decided what we must go for is not
what is good and bad for UK, but what is best for Denmark ... It's
not to our advantage to be helpful and friendly. We would lose out.
The more you look at the issues the more it toughens your line."
The UK percentage of Danish exports have declined from more than
half after the war to about 7% today. The Danish fishing industry is
vulnerable, as almost a third of its catch comes from UK waters. But
about half of Danish GDP is from exports, and two thirds of exports
are to the single market and Germany.
Brexit is like defection in the prisoners dilemma in game
theory. If all cooperate, all benefit. If one defects, it benefits
and the others lose — unless they gang up to punish the defector.
Nazi Germany defected from a fragile European peace in 1939 and the
world ganged up against it. Brexit is defection from a fragile
2016 November 20
The human brain contains 86 billion
neurons. It burns 25% of the energy our entire body needs, compared
with 10% for almost all other vertebrates. Ancestral humans learned
to feed bigger brains some 1.5 million years ago by cooking their
When primates and nonprimates diverged around 65
million years ago, primates began to pack their brains with many
more neurons for the same brain mass. This occurred for both the
cerebellum and the cerebral cortex, with the former containing about
80% of the neurons for most mammals.
The average size of
neurons increases exponentially as the number of neurons increases
in nonprimates but not in primates. As the cortex of a nonprimate
acquires 10 times more neurons, its neurons become on average 4
times larger and hence the cortex 40 times larger in mass. Among
primates, the average size of neurons remains constant as the
neurons increase in number.
The average human brain has 16
billion neurons in the cerebral cortex, 69 billion in the
cerebellum, and fewer than 1 billion in the rest of the brain. This
fits the neuronal scaling rules for primates: we have a normal
primate brain, with the right number of neurons for the mass of our
brain and body size. Other great apes have relatively far smaller
brains for their body size.
Different scaling rules apply to
the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. For all primates, when
additional neurons are added to the brain the cerebral cortex
increases in mass at a much faster rate than does the cerebellum.
The cortical neurons make connections over several cm, but neurons
in the cerebellum span only a few mm.
The human frontal and
prefrontal cortex have a standard mass and a standard number of
neurons for a primate of our size. But we have a higher total number
of neurons compared both to great apes of our size and to primates
smaller than we are. Our prefrontal cortex contains 1.3 billion
neurons — this is the human advantage.
AR The further civilizational advantage is the algorithmic
coding in the connectome.
Physicists and mathematicians are
exploring a surprising correspondence. The values calculated from
Feynman diagrams seem to match some numbers in algebraic geometry
Mathematicians study periods as numbers
generated by integrating polynomial functions. The class of periods
contains many features that point to an underlying order. Cohomology
theories cover the geometric objects defined by the solutions to
classes of polynomial functions.
Feynman diagrams have lines
representing particle paths. In quantum mechanics, the path a
particle takes is computed by taking a Feynman path integral over
the set of all paths.
Each Feynman diagram has an associated
integral. To calculate the probability of an outcome from a set of
starting conditions, consider all possible diagrams for that
outcome, take each integral, and add the integrals together to give
an amplitude. Square the amplitude to get the probability.
Feynman diagrams with loops represent situations in which particles
emit and then reabsorb additional particles. The new particles are
created and annihilated before they can be observed. By considering
more loops, physicists increase the precision of their calculations.
The number of loops in a Feynman diagram may correspond to a
weight for the dimension of the space of the integration. The
classification of periods by weights carries over to Feynman
diagrams. This is work in progress.
The intercourse between mathematics and physics has been
fruitful for centuries.
2016 November 19
US and Germany
America has been closely divided politically
for some time. But in this age of social media, voters can swing
back and forth. Some of this is less ideological and more just an
impulse toward change.
Some of the same concerns about
globalization, technology, and rapid social change that were
reflected in Brexit exist in the United States as well. If we
address the concerns of those who feel left behind by globalization,
then many of these tensions will be reduced. But if inequality
continues to grow, then we could see more of these divisions arise
around the world.
When I came in we had had a crisis, but we
were able to stabilize the financial system, stabilize the US
economy and return to growth. When I turn over the keys to the
president-elect, the country will be much stronger than it was when
I came into office.
I was elected because I believed in
politics from the bottom up. Even when the economy was bad or we had
problems, people sensed that I listened to them and I was on their
side. All politicians today have to be more attentive to people
wanting to have more control over their lives.
has been an extraordinary partner for me and for the United States
throughout my presidency. One of her great qualities is that she is
steady. Chancellor Merkel and Germany are a lynchpin in protecting
the basic tenets of a liberal, market-based democratic order that
has created unprecedented prosperity and security for Europe and the
The values that we share — freedom of speech, freedom
of religious practice, freedom for civil society, free and fair
elections, the innovation created through a market-based economy —
those things are ultimately going to be the path for us to continue
into a better future.
freedom of movement — don't let the terrorists win!
2016 November 18
Humans On Earth
Our best chance for survival as a species
is to leave Earth and establish colonies on other planets. The chance of a disaster to planet Earth adds up over time, and becomes
a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years. By that time we
should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster
on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.
to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense
of what you see, wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be
curious. However difficult life may seem, there is always something
you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.
Germans On Brexit
Until Brexit is complete, Britain will
have to fulfil its commitments. There may be some commitments that
last beyond the exit. Also we cannot grant any generous rebates.
The UK is still a member of the EU and it has always upheld
valid regulations, laws, and treaties. Euro clearing must be done
within the eurozone because the euro is the EU common currency.
The UK will not get special treatment on migration if it wants
to remain in the single market. Freedom of movement is a core
element of the internal market. There is no à la carte menu.
Without membership of the internal market, without acceptance of the
four basic freedoms of the internal market, there can be no
passporting, no free access for financial products or for financial
AR Just as I expect:
Germans will stick to their guns. Nein means no.
S. Frederick Starr
Central Asia's Golden Age from the
Arab Conquest to Tamerlane
far I have only read a third of this book but already it has
revealed a view of Central Asia from about 700 CE to 1200 that shows
it to have been about as special as Classical Greece or
Enlightenment Europe. For example, the Persian mathematician
Khwarazmi (latinised as Algoritmi, ca 780 — ca 850) wrote a book of
algebraic algorithms called The Compendious Book on Calculation
by Completion and Balancing that was in regular use for
centuries, the physician Razi (865 — 925) wrote an eight-volume
encyclopedia of medicine, and the philosopher Farabi (latinised as
Alfarabius, ca 870 — ca 950) wrote a book On the Perfect State
reconciling Plato's Republic with Islam by calling the
philosopher-king an imam or Supreme Leader.
2016 November 17
Remake European Union
I believe the UK belongs in Europe. But I
respect their choice. The question is whether the UK and its
27 partner nations will have enough time to reach a mutually
Nobody can enjoy privileges without
fulfilling responsibilities. This is simple logic. No European
government could agree to grant the UK free access to the single
market if Britain does not accept rules, duties and concessions,
including the free movement of Europeans, in return.
doubts about the European project cannot be explained away as
insular or idiosyncratic. And yet the only way forward for Europeans
in our globalized world is to stand together. Europe needs an
overhaul as well as reforms.
The EZ and the EU-27 have
different paths to follow. The EZ needs to deepen its integration,
with more permanent leadership for EZ summits, a central secretariat
to serve as EZ treasury, and an EZ monetary fund. The EU-27 should
revert to ensuring the domestic market operates smoothly and
focusing on strategic issues, and needs to review Commission
Europe needs a new immigration policy. It needs
a new Schengen, shared immigration and asylum policies, and
consistent employment laws regarding foreigners to end social
dumping. We need to protect EU borders and prioritize cooperation
aimed at stemming illegal immigration.
Europe must not reform because it hopes to bring the UK back to
the fold. It must reform because its future and its survival depend
on it. Reform is urgent and vital.
Civil Service World
UK civil service chief executive John
Manzoni says the government already had too many objectives before
the UK voted to leave the EU: "When I look across from outside, I
say we're doing 30% too much to do it all well — that is the nature
Manzoni says the civil service is "still in
thinking mode" about Brexit. There is "an enormous amount of work
going on across the civil service redefining what the future of the
various policies might be, or what we might like them to be ... we
need to go back, we need to re-plan, we need to be realistic, we
can't do it all — it won't all happen within the existing envelope."
AR The ramifications of Brexit
and Trump suggest the AA ship is entering uncharted waters where the
crew will be challenged to stay in control. The downside risk
is not just anger and confusion but the sort of
global disorder we last saw 70-80 years ago.
2016 November 16
Merkel: Free Movement
German chancellor Angela Merkel: "Were we to
make an exception for the free movement of people with Britain, this
would mean we would endanger principles of the whole internal market
in the European Union, because everyone else will then want these
exceptions ... I personally hold the view that we will have to
discuss further with the European Commission when this freedom of
movement applies ... Free movement applies in the sense that the
employee himself earns the money he needs for himself and his family
in the other member state."
British foreign secretary Boris
Johnson: "It is stupid to say that freedom of movement is a
fundamental right. It has been acquired by a series of decisions by
the courts. And everyone now has in his head that every human being
has a fundamental, God-given right to go and move wherever he wants.
But it is not. It was never a founding principle of the European
Treaty Establishing the European Community, Rome, 25 March 1957:
Part Three. Community Policies. Title III. Free Movement of Persons,
Services and Capital. Chapter 1. Workers. Article 48. Freedom of
movement for workers shall be secured within the Community by the
end of the transitional period at the latest.
"I'm a rabbi, and I'm applying for a German
Most of my mother's family, from
Heilbronn, perished. So why would I want a German passport?
1 My synagogue took a group of members
to Berlin. The city marked where Jewish families had lived with
Stolpersteine commemorative plaques. It recorded the history and
celebrated the contribution Jews had made to German culture.
2 This year, Heilbronn published a
biography of my mother, from 1933 to 1947. The city gave us a huge
welcome to launch the book. I felt comfortable in Germany, and quite
3 I have also felt
enormous admiration for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Britain voted for Brexit, I decided to reclaim my German origins. I
am a European as well as a proud Briton. I think it perfectly
possible to be a Briton and to hold a German passport too.
Germany has a rapidly growing Jewish community.
stinking legacy of Daesh
A New Special
President Putin spoke to
Donald Trump and
the idea of a new relationship
with the United States
on equality, mutual respect,
and non-interference in
other's internal affairs. They
agreed to get the Russo-US
relationship back on track.
Sounds OK to me.
A pitch for Globorg!
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
died 300 years ago today.
He developed binary arithmetic
and worked on a machine
computations. His imagination
paved the way for the
Das Zeitungslesen des Morgens
ist eine Art von realistischem
AR Reading the morning
newspaper is the realist's
morning prayer — and
my morning devotion.
There is a crack,
That's how the light gets in.
Russian Armata tank
"We have to hope the rhetoric
we heard during the campaign
rapidly replaced by a very
sober and serious statement
there is any question of
a NATO member being attacked
Trump will without any
hesitation or equivocation come
defense of the country.
Anything less would be really
Former NATO Deputy SACEUR
General Sir Richard Shirreff
Trump in 1987
2016 November 15
A leaked memo prepared for the Cabinet Office and circulated
within Whitehall is critical of Brexit plans and suggests civil
servants are struggling. Gist:
Politics: The prime minister aims to keep her party
from splitting. A public debate would expose splits. If necessary, a
short enabling bill will be submitted to parliament, permitting the
government to invoke Article 50 in March. The debate in parliament
will shift expectations.
Government: Departments have developed well over
500 projects to implement Brexit. These are beyond the capacity and
capability of government to execute quickly. Departments are
struggling and need increased headcount in the 10-30,000 range.
Government expects lobbying on company decisions, industry insights
and issues, and overall business concerns. The government priority
remains its political survival, not the economy. There will be no
clear strategy soon.
AR I never
expected otherwise. May is on a loser with this one.
Donald Trump is not a regular politician. He
has won the presidency despite repeated media exposure as a chronic
liar, sexual predator, serial tax avoider, and race baiter. He is
the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for
autocrat — and won.
I have lived in autocracies and written
about Vladimir Putin's Russia. My rules for surviving in an
1 Believe the
autocrat. He means what he says.
not be taken in by small signs of normality.
3 Institutions will not save you.
4 Be outraged. Trump has secured power.
5 Do not make compromises. They will be
6 Remember the future.
AR Perhaps Trump will turn out to be
a Teddy bear.
A New Dark Age?
Donald Trump and his advisers are said to
be looking for a way to terminate the Paris climate agreement within
his first 100 days in office. They will likely also gut the Clean
Adviser Myron Ebell may head up the Environmental
Protection Agency. Ebell: "There has been a little bit of warming.
But it's been very modest and well within the range for natural
variability, and whether it's caused by human beings or not, it's
nothing to worry about."
Trump promised to end US support for
UN climate science. Two of his leading advisers on space policy
argued that NASA should cut spending on "politically correct"
Scientists have a natural interest
in the ebbs and flows of atmospheric chemistry, and the carbon cycle
that determines Earth's climate on long time scales. The science
of cloud formation, precipitation patterns, sea winds, and hurricanes
is essential to a deep understanding of the physical world. We
depend on the good health of the vegetation that
greens our continents.
Scientists have made a long march from
antiquity, when the Earth was proven round, to the Scientific
Revolution, when it was found to be moving, to the Enlightenment,
when geologists began to grasp its extreme age, on through to today.
The close, patient study of this planet has nothing to do with the
passing fashions of political speech in the here and now.
2016 November 14
Nietzsche Was Right
Friedrich Nietzsche said liberal democracy
cannot work. Belief in equality and social justice leads to
fragmentation. Politics is dominated by noisy disadvantaged groups
who treat any unifying ethos as the oppressive ideology of the
He was right. Progressive politics is
collapsing as its rhetoric is dominated by concern for various
victim groups. In the UK and US, about half the electorate dislikes such
rhetoric enough to overturn the ideals of the other half.
Liberals lack a big bold unifying vision. To renew the liberal
vision, restate it in bigger bolder terms. Stop fetishizing a few
Hau ab, Briten!
The UK is an example of how not to handle
populist outrage. European politicians will take a tough line on
Brexit to defend the project they have spent years on. If that means
politics must trump economics, so be it.
Britain may try to
stall the efforts of the EU-27 to show life after Brexit. This plays
to those in Europe who just want to say "Fuck it" to the Brits, says
a senior German MEP. When Brexit talks sink into acrimony, expect
those Europeans to say the EU is well shot of Brits.
2016 November 13
This is no time to question the value of
the partnership between Europe and the United States.
European leaders have always understood that when it comes to
security, going it alone is not an option. American leaders have
always recognised that they had profound strategic interest in a
stable and secure Europe. And throughout the last 67 years America
has had no more steadfast and reliable partner.
We seek to
prevent a conflict. An attack against one will be met by a response
Right On Trump
The New York Times
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert
Wilders: "Congratulations! A historic victory! A revolution! We will
return our country to the Dutch. We are witnessing the same uprising
on both sides of the Atlantic."
French Front National party
leader Marine Le Pen: "It shows that when the people really want
something, they can get it. When the people want to retake their
destiny in hand, they can do it ... It's the emergence of a new
Italian Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo: "They
called us sexists, homophobes, demagogues and populists. They don't
realize that millions of people already no longer read their
newspapers and no longer watch their television."
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache: "The left and the
corrupt establishment, which considers itself so superior, are being
punished blow by blow by the voters and voted out of various
positions of responsibility."
British former UKIP leader Nigel
Farage tweeted: "It was a great honour to spend time with Donald
Trump. He was relaxed and full of good ideas. I'm confident he will
be a good President."
Filmed in 19 locations across the
world and set both in the present and the year 2033,
Mars depicts how we will colonize Mars.
features interviews with Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Martian
author Andy Weir, NASA engineers, and former Apollo 13 astronaut
James Lovell. A fictional narrative is set in 2033, when the first
human mission lands on Mars.
Producer Justin Wilkes: "If the world
can come together for something as significant as putting people on
Mars, then what else are we capable of doing? I think we need that
2016 November 12
The Last Trump
Trump calls global warming bullshit, a hoax.
He plans to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement. He says
he will axe
clean energy funding, end aid to developing nations for climate
change problems, and wave through contested fossil fuel projects.
US National Center for Atmospheric Research senior scientist
Kevin Trenberth: "This is an unmitigated disaster for the planet."
The Trump presidency will likely see a resurgence in US
greenhouse gas emissions. If China, India, and the European Union
fail to make compensatory emissions cuts, the planet could spiral
into runaway climate change.
NASA scientists are expecting
cuts to climate research programs. But the physics is inexorable:
2016 will be the warmest year on record.
Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) chief
"During the campaign, Trump was all over
... AAAS, for more than half a century, has been outspoken to
policymakers and the public about the risks of human-induced climate
change and the need to take action to mitigate it ... I think we
will be urging him to look at the evidence even before his first day
because climate change is a major, historic, global problem."
I was an AAAS
member from 1989 to 1991.
Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, 85,
understands human behavior in terms of the search for meaning. His
"Democracy is teleological. It's a collective effort
with a noble goal: inclusion. In some ways, democracy is a fiction
that we're trying to realize ... The belief that democracy is
supposed to be a system in which non-élites have a say — that
principle is built right into the nature of democracy. But there are
constructive ways of asserting it and destructive ways."
Islam: "As long
as human beings aspire, they will be capable of corrupting the
object of their aspiration. I'm a person of faith ... If I were
Muslim, I would look at the present situation in Saudi Arabia and
with the Islamic State and I would be appalled, as my Muslim friends
World War II was the defining fact of Taylor's
childhood: "The climax — a day I'll never forget — was when France
sued for the armistice. In my family, that was the end of
Taylor is in favor of localism and
subsidiarity. A rooted, meaningful democracy might be centered on
local schools, town governments, voluntary associations, and
churches. Family members talk, over dinner, about politics, history,
and faith — a pastoral vision.
Compare Heidegger and the
Volksgemeinschaft. I admire Taylor's work — at Oxford I
regularly attended his All Souls seminars on Hegel.
2016 November 11
Brexit Britain, Trumped America, and Militant
The House of
War has become a house of division. Europe is teetering on the brink
of disintegrating into quarrelsome nation states and America is
sinking into riots and discord that could split the union. Militant
Islamists are gleeful.
The psychic fog of old religious
dogmas still hangs around our body politic. Christian values still
constrain European and American attitudes to sex, birth, death,
atheists, and animals. Harsher doctrines still shroud the faithful
in the House of Islam.
Some recent immigrants into Europe are
infected with an ideological plague. Muslims who regard it as their
holy duty to wage jihad against the infidel will not rest easy in
Western lands. Jihadists need to be liquidated before it is too
The Christian doctrine that we should love the sinner
but hate the sin may guide us. Immigrants with a Muslim heritage can
be fine people, but their hard religious views must be melted down.
If the newcomers fight assimilation, we must fight back.
first duty is solidarity with each other as members of a strong and
vibrant civilization. Europeans and Americans have a common cause
here. Brexit or Trumpet diehards should turn their anger to
revulsion for the plague within Islam.
Make no mistake, this
will be hard. But it must be done. Any lesser response will leave
our neighbors bowing to Mecca, cowed by evil men.
2016 November 10
Future Greenhouse Warming
Global mean surface temperatures are
rising in response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The
magnitude of this warming at equilibrium for a given radiative
forcing is uncertain, but we find that the range of estimates of
future warming by 2100 CE overlaps with the upper range of climate
simulations conducted in
Within this century, global mean temperatures will very likely
exceed maximum levels of the last 784 000 years.
AR Astronomers say Earth will warm up
US Election: Analysis
Electoral College so far: Clinton 232, Trump 290 (1
state to call)
— Michigan so far: 47.3%, 47.6% (96% in at 3:53 pm
National vote: Clinton 59,926,386 (47.7%), Trump
Male voters: Clinton 41%,
Female voters: Clinton 54%, Trump 42%
18-44: Clinton 52%, Trump 40%
Voters aged 45+: Clinton 44%, Trump
Senate: Dem 48, Rep 51 (1 to go)
House: Dem 193, Rep
238 (4 to go)
UK prime minister Theresa May policy board chairman George
Freeman: "The roar of anger at globalization, machine politics,
out-of-touch elites has now swept the UK and the USA. All in
mainstream politics need to look harder, listen better, and think
smarter about the underlying causes of popular anger and address
them. We need new policies to respond to and address the grassroots
failure of our political economy."
Key trends by 2020:
1 Social media will have continued to
2 Machine learning and AI
will move forward 10x
3 50 billion
devices and 1 trillion sensors will come online
4 Digital avatars will become
photorealistic and fully programmable
Micropayments, smart objects, and blockchain apps will go mainstream
Bottom line: The 2020 election will be very personal.
2016 November 9
UK date 9/11
The New York Times, 1009 ET
President: Clinton 218 Trump 279 (270 to win)
Congress: Dem 191 Rep 236
Senate: Dem 47 Rep 51
A New Anglo-American World
Trump in America and Brexit Britain in Europe — the transatlantic
Nylon axis has taken a turn for better or worse, but certainly a
turn. The currently liberal world order will become more illiberal.
The borders of the AA nations will become less porous and
self-interest will take the lead as tie breaker and deal breaker.
Globalization will continue but politicians will learn to
champion it less naively than before. Big corporations will continue
to go their own way, but they will more often have to fight for
their transnational privileges. Markets will be sliced and diced
with new political restrictions, and consumers will face more
Geopolitically, expect harder regional
profiles, with the European Union holding back from the new mood in
the AA world and European nationalists confronting EU liberal
pieties more aggressively. China will find America a more awkward
bilateral trading partner and a more assertive regional military
opponent. NATO will struggle to keep the attention of Americans
focused on Europe, and Russia will be tempted to ramp up border
The wider lesson to draw here is that communities
sharing a native language develop a deeper cohesion than communities
based on the more superficial ties of shared interest or prudential
calculation. Londoners feel closer to New York than to Brussels.
Philosophers will see this as a confirmation of the felt importance
of the folkish community as described by Martin Heidegger.
the short term we can expect a bumpy ride. Americans will retreat
faster from their Globocop role and Europeans will build up their
union independently of the breakaway province across the Channel. We
are witnessing the breakup of the world order established after
World War II.
The United States has elected its own
Silvio Berlusconi — or Benito Mussolini. Donald Trump is the
narcissist who basks in the adulation of his mostly white male
followers. Members of the elite did not reckon on their anger and
Trump says out loud all those things white people have
been thinking but were told by teachers and the media they should
never express. A lot of them like his tantrums and vows of revenge.
Trump is the American id, untroubled by reason or reality.
Congress will have to keep Trump from declaring war in a fit of
pique or trying to dismantle parts of government. And staff around
him will have to keep him from insulting foreign leaders or behaving
like a toddler. His voters want someone who will come in and drain
the swamp or burn the place down. They may get their wish.
Trump is currently involved in 75 legal cases. Some he instigated,
some have been brought by former employees, some involve civil
charges of fraud. A Trump presidency is terrible for America and
terrible for the world, but it will be great for satire.
Andrew Sullivan, May 1, 2016
Plato said the longer a
democracy lasted, the more democratic it would become. Deference to
authority would wither, tolerance of inequality would wane, and
multiculturalism and sexual freedom would run riot. This freedom is
The rich come under attack, patriarchy is
dismantled, and family hierarchies are inverted. Students mock their
teachers, animals are regarded as equal to humans, and the foreigner
is equal to the citizen. Then a future tyrant will seize his moment.
He makes his move by taking over a mob and attacking his wealthy
peers as corrupt. Soon his enemies are forced either to appease him
or to flee as he promises to cut through the paralysis and take them
on. The people thrill to him.
Donald Trump fits the platonic
template. He is the true messiah of conservative populism, but he is
not just a wacky politician. In terms of our liberal democracy and
constitutional order, Trump is an Extinction Level Event.
AR Whoa — steady on, Sullivan!
"Democracy, freedom, respect for the law and
for human dignity, regardless of ancestry, skin color, religion,
gender, sexual orientation or political leanings. On the basis of
these values, I offer the future president of the United States of
America, Donald Trump, close cooperation."
"Trump is a warning to us as well. He is the
harbinger of a new authoritarian and chauvinistic international
German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel
his campaign, Trump was critical not just of Europe, but also of
Germany. I believe we must prepare for American foreign policy
becoming less predictable. We must prepare for a situation in which
America will be tempted to make decisions on its own more often."
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
to prepare for the fact that it must provide for itself."
defense minister Ursula von der Leyen
27 years ago today: Berlin wall breached
78 years ago today: